The Castle of Merchant Andrews

Prepared by Michael J. Davis

There’s an old story that used to be told hereabouts, something of a legend really.  A story of a fantastic stone castle, raised up as if by magic on the edge of a woodland lake, in which lived a strange man of many names.  In his castle he designed strange new inventions, traded with native warriors, compounded chemical experiments, made active plans to cheat death itself and, if the stories are to be believed, left behind a fabulous golden treasure which has never been found.

This story, though replete with all the romantic hallmarks of a childish fantasy, is in fact much closer to the truth than might be initially believed.  It happened in North Bridgton over two hundred years ago, and concerns the life of a man who, in the years after his death, became more of a figure in local folklore than local history.  They called him Andrews, though the exploits of his long life soon afforded him a variety of nigh-mythic titles – Captain Andrews, Merchant Andrews, Iron Man Andrews; these are the names by which he has come down to us today, almost as something of a fable.  So complete was this custom that in 1904, local historian Lothrop Lincoln Lewis pithily remarked; “In the old New England community three types of character of men were represented by the terms merchant, storekeeper and trader.  In the past Bridgton had good examples of each, to one of whom the term merchant became so fixed, that I imagine there are but very few, if any, who know the name of Merchant Andrews.”  Out of purely historical interest, his given name was Samuel, but it’s a rare history which calls him that even now.

Andrews came to what is now North Bridgton in 1799, arriving over Long Lake to the traditional landing spot of West Cove where our pioneer settler Captain Benjamin Kimball had first come ashore 31 years before.  Andrews surveyed the spot, and found the developing situation to his liking.  Capt. Kimball had for the last three decades operated a small lodging house near the shore of West Cove; a sort of ad hoc inn, tavern, and trading post all in one, but after thirty years of service the enterprise was rather plainly showing its age.  In 1794 the frontier settlement of “Bridge’s Town” had been officially incorporated as “Bridgton,” and while the village of North Bridgton was still commonly referred to as merely “the Head of the Pond,” it was no longer by any respect a wilderness.  Framed houses were springing up everywhere, roads were being put in place, and families were arriving faster every year.  Kimball’s little cluster of log cabins by the lake, raised up by Samuel Gates in 1768, was no longer sufficient for the needs of the developing town.  This situation was exactly what Andrews had hoped to find.

Samuel Andrews was of an old colonial family, his ancestors having been amongst the pioneers of Massachusetts, and he had first come to Maine in 1780 with his wife Hannah.  The newlyweds had settled in Sylvester, now the town of Turner, where he opened a small store.  Tradition is largely mute regarding his early days, save for the fact that around about 1798 his storehouse in Turner suffered a catastrophic fire, following which “feeling that Bridgton offered better opportunities for business, he removed from Turner and thus became Bridgton’s merchant.”

When Andrews saw the growing town with its meagre trading post on the shore, looking in every way like a stubborn vestige from a bygone colonial era, he saw opportunity.  Captain Kimball had grown old, and while his son Benjamin Jr. had continued with the business, the trading house was not his dream.  While he spent some time as both tax collector and innkeeper, his chief employment and passion was as a land surveyor; having received some of the equipment used in the original surveying of Bridgton from his father, Kimball early made a name for himself in the “laying out” of subdivisions on lots in Bridgton and what is now Harrison.  He became so good at this that by 1800 he was often away from Bridgton surveying for Boston parties along the Piscataqua River, and making a “top wage” of $2 a day while there, so when Samuel Andrews offered to buy the old trading house and so relieve him of his obligations as merchant, Benjamin Jr. was all too happy to sell.

It is clear that Andrews possessed a singularly scientific mind.  Perhaps he was one of those gentleman scientists so common in the late-Eighteenth and early-Nineteenth centuries, of a sort whose local representation can be found in men such as Enoch Perley of South Bridgton and Amos Jones Cook of Fryeburg; men who were always solving problems and always looking for problems to solve.  To his credit, Andrews has been remembered as “a man of large ideas,” and with his inventive mind and ready, problem-solving attitude his lofty ideas were rarely out of reach to him.  Jumping immediately into action, Andrews set up a small store in the front-room of his personal home, a small house which stood “on a little rise of ground… several rods back from the road,” nearly opposite the old Smith farmstead.  This was to be a temporary storefront while he worked on developing the West Cove trading post, and to supply it – for he was without a horse – Andrews was obliged to walk to Portland on foot whenever he needed to resupply his wares, “bringing his goods on his back.”

Meanwhile, in his available time and with a small group of hired men, Andrews set about demolishing the Kimball store and clearing the land beside West Cove of all its trees, laying the floorplan for his future Bridgton enterprise.  He would raise a new building here, but beyond that, he would raise a new kind of building; strong, secure, and lasting.  “A memorial of his enterprise,” he would later call it; a statement to which future developments soon added notable significance.  It is this structure, known locally as the “old Stone Store,” which features so strongly in North Bridgton folklore to his day. 

An immense construction, the old Stone Store was three stories tall and built in the true English masonry style, largely consisting of long strips of split granite laid together like immense bricks, over and around which were added several layers of cobblestones.  The granite slabs were quarried locally and dragged to the site, set in place with improvised derricks, and mortared together with a mixture of hydraulic lime that Andrews manufactured on site.  No one in Bridgton had ever seen anything like it, and until James Mead Sr. build the celebrated Stone House of South Bridgton in 1830, likely following Andrews’ design, the old Stone Store at the head of the pond was the only building of this style in the whole of Western Maine.  The History of Bridgton provides a description of this structure in a chapter written by Guy Monk, the premier North Bridgton historian.  He writes; “It was built of cobblestones laid in lime, with courses of brick over the upper story.”  These bricks were a crucial element of Andrews’ design, as revealed in Bridgton’s masonic History of Oriental Lodge #13, where George S. Farnsworth notes; “As he had once been burnt out of a store in Turner by the roof taking fire, the attic floor was covered with brick, so that the roof might be burned without the lower part being damaged.”  This history, now an exceedingly rare volume, furthers our understanding of the old Stone Store with the note that “the walls [were] about three feet in thickness with a large fireplace in one end,” concerning which Monk relates; “The chimney over the fireplace was cross-hatched with iron bars and old scythe blades to keep out burglars and Indians!”  Clearly this building was the product of a creative and exacting mind, one concerned with the possibility of all outcomes, and it will suffice to say that the business this building contained was managed in no less precise a manner.  Andrews quickly attained a reputation for fair dealing, and within the year he and his family were prospering, with the History of Bridgton’s History remarking; “by 1800 Merchant Andrews was doing a thriving business in his stone store by the shore of West Cove.  Much of his trade was by barter, but he soon became one of the wealthiest men in town.”  Looking back on these developments, it seems to have been around this time that he first took on the now well-worn nickname “Merchant Andrews,” for as Lewis observed “it is no wonder that he became the ‘Merchant,’ [this] the largest of his enterprises marked the difference between the storekeeper and the merchant.”

If we were to travel back through the centuries and stop in at Merchant Andrews’ store, what could we expect to find?  “A shrewd Yankee trader,” says Monk’s Story of North Bridgton.  Andrews would be hard at work measuring out flour, sugar, coffee and salt, stacking up furs and bolts of linen, and eagerly going through ledger books tracking his incoming and outgoing orders.  “He did not overlook little things,” Lewis tells us, offering as evidence “the story of the boy in his store, who, dropping a pound of shot upon the floor, was simply told that ‘all he had to do was just to pick them up again.’”  Similarly, Farnsworth declares “In his business transactions he was perfectly honest; the silver money in use being the Spanish, composed of four pence half penny, six and a quarter cents, ninepence, twelve and a half cents, quarters, halves and dollars… If a customer bought ten cents worth and gave a ninepence in payment, he would give back two cents and half of a cracker for change.”  New England rum was then one of the principal articles in the store, “which he retailed at three cents a glass, having a small tin cup in which he always measured the rum,” but there must have been something of a temperance man in him, for he was deeply religious, “and if one who was a little tipsy called for a glass, he inserted his thumb, which would take the place of the rum, according to the condition of the customer.”  Andrews traded with local citizens, visiting travelers, and even wandering Pequawket natives alike, and a page from his ledger book still survives and is quoted in Monk’s Story of North Bridgton, from which we learn the prices of several of his goods.  Potatoes went at fifty cents a bushel, tea at seventy cents a pound, tobacco at twenty.  Rum sold for twenty-five cents a quart, and molasses retailed for the high price of fifty cents a gallon.  In this way, one sale a time, Merchant Andrews made his fortune. 

Ever the trader, he was always looking to find a use for whatever he could get his hands on, particularly those materials which he could buy cheaply.  With settlement well underway, large swaths of forest were regularly being felled to clear fresh farmland, and a large part of clearing the land consisted of cutting and burning the undergrowth.  The trees were felled and laid in “ricks,” or rows, and the resulting conflagration was often occasion for his neighbors to gather, both to watch and to patrol the fire.  The ashes from this burning, when mixed with the rain, produced potash, or lye, which helped to enrich the soil.  Merchant Andrews saw this as a golden opportunity.  In 1799, ashes sold for ten cents a bushel, their intended use being for fertilizer.  But Andrews knew that potash had another use.  Farmers’ wives used potash, mixed with fats, to make lye soap, a process which made high-quality potash valuable.  Evidently Andrews was something of a chemist – we recall his feat with the hydraulic lime came a good twenty-five years before the invention of Portland Cement upon the same concept – and on this basis he immediately set about producing potash for the market by placing bushels of the cheap ash in barrels of straw, through which he steeped considerable quantities of fresh water drawn from the lake.  Gathering the resulting mixture in large iron kettles, it was then calcined and crushed produce a fine powder, producing a commercially viable substance at very little expense.  He must have been good at it, as for many years “Samuel Andrews Potash” shows up as an item of frequent purchase in early town records, with only one other merchant ever attempting a similar scheme. 

While some of Merchant Andrews’ goods were made in Bridgton, or purchased for re-sale from local smiths and farmers, most of his finer wares had to be imported.  Farnsworth tells how “the fancy goods, the heavy goods, such as New England rum, molasses, sugar and salt,” were things which no one in Bridgton could make and so had be sent for from Portland, and the only way to Portland in those days was by water.  First by a trip down Long Lake, Brandy Pond, and the Songo River, and then across Sebago Lake to what is now Standish, then called Pearsontown, where a turnpike connected overland to the city.  To travel this route and haul his stock back, Andrews made use of “a boat navigated by Benj. Kimball, of two tons burthen,” who operated the ferry “in accordance with a bargain struck with the Proprietors in 1768.”  Following Andrews’ construction of the Stone Store in 1800 he had been making extensive use of this ferry service, as it was far better than walking the whole distance as he’d been forced to do when starting up, but in 1802 opportunity struck following Capt. Kimball’s sudden death by paralysis.  This was a tragic blow to the whole village, and one of much consequence to Andrews, not the least of which being that it now left the waterway unmanned.  This waterway was the Merchant’s link to the outside world, and West Cove, where his store was located, served as the harbor through which all goods entering or leaving North Bridgton had to travel.  With Kimball dead and his son otherwise engaged, there was now a problem, and Andrews was determined as always to supply the solution.  Driven by his own dependence on the Portland trade route, and likewise mindful of Bridgton’s greater needs, Merchant Andrews took on the service himself, designing and building a series of boats to better carry goods across the lake.  To say they were inventive is an understatement, and while they were not all successful the sheer ingenuity of his creations left more than a few firmly embedded in local history.  James Carroll Mead, writing in 1895, described how Merchant Andrews “was among the first of Bridgtonians to profit by Capt. Kimball’s example and ‘do boating’,” adding that “Merchant Andrews was of an inventive turn of mind and his boats were sure to favor of the original.”

“He had for instance a freight boat that went by horsepower,” Mead writes, “a side wheeler worked with a treadmill in calm weather and sails when the wind would permit.”  The thing did float, and when the horse was persuaded to walk it even moved, but “the gearing of the ‘hoss boat’ was apt to prove weak and she was generally slow,” which we find a fitting observation for what a boat with a motive capacity of quite literally one horsepower.  Another unique boat was Andrews’ “Egg Shell,”...“a boat shaped like an egg, round bottom, rounding deck, with hatches and round ends, and it is said she never seemed to consider which side up she ought to be.”  Most famous of all was the Andrews Brick Boat, a specialty barge designed to run a notorious stretch of rapids which then existed at about the midpoint of the Songo River.  “The next venture of the genius was a brick boat which probably came as near being an armored cruiser as anything that ever navigated landlocked waters.  A wooden hull was constructed, to which was fastened plates of specially-made bricks.  They were about six inches by four wide, and an inch or less in thickness; in each brick was two holes, to permit nailing to the hull.  In addition to the nails they were otherwise made secure by a cement, likewise of the merchant's invention.”  This barge also worked, and we know that he made at least one trip with it safely, but as it drew rather low in the water, it could not long withstand his heavy re-supply runs.  Mead goes on to say “If the ‘hoss boat’ was a failure, the brick boat was a greater one, for she sank in Songo river in her infancy, and to this day, when a river driver's or steam-boat hand's pick-pole strikes an obstruction in the river's depths, he is more than apt to say, ‘I guess I have struck old Andrew's brick boat.’”  As a historical note, in 1845 his son Samuel Andrews 2nd, who helped to incorporate the Cumberland and Oxford Canal, built an impressive brick house on South High Street.  This was the first brick home in Bridgton’s center village, and all during its construction people were heard to say that it was no use building a brick house in this climate, as “the brick walls would heave and collapse during winter & spring thaws.”  Evidently the early mortars commonly used in these parts did not hold up to the harsh Maine winters, a fact which caused some townsfolk to prophesy that the house would fall down within a year, but Andrews 2nd was as equal a craftsman as his father, and the house held together through ice and snow.  It has remained standing for almost 175 years, and the mortar is as strong today as when it was first laid.  Might not this weatherproof mortar, used by the son, be the famed waterproof cement invented by the father?

Returning to the ferry problem, while the horse boat, eggshell, and brick boat may have been less than successful, Andrews’ noted “nautical ingenuity” eventually paid off.  After the failure of the brick boat he constructed a kind of catamaran that immediately proved a great success, which he named “The Three Sisters.”  “From logs he had three good dugouts made precisely alike and placing them side by side, a little distance from one another, he decked them over and had a craft that was at once safe and speedy.”  With this barge, and others formed on its design, the History of Bridgton tells that Captain Andrews “monopolized most of the trade between Bridgton and Portland,” and “prospered so well that by 1821 he paid the second largest individual tax in town.”  And, in what is perhaps the most incredible development to come from his experiments, the failure of his horse boat did not dissuade Andrews from his plan of motorized power.  He would in later years adapt the gearing from his horse-boat into an early attempt at self-propelled locomotion; a visionary though ultimately unsuccessful creation whose spectacle surpassed even the brick boat in the returns it earned him in local fame.  The story of Andrews’ handcar, as told by Farnsworth, begins with Andrews developing “an idea that the time would come when carriages would be propelled by some other power than by horses, and [accordingly] built a wagon to be run by the occupant turning a crank, and when it was completed, he found that though it could be run on a level floor, it could not run ‘up hill.’  But to make the ‘trial trip,’ he got three men with himself to enter the carriage, and with the help of a crowd outside, he was pushed to the head of the street, but on the return trip, having no brake, it ran with ‘accelerated speed’ down the hill and into the pond, which was the end of that experiment.  But no lives were lost, and a generous treat of crackers and rum amply compensated for the fatigue and dunking they got.”

Merchant Andrews continued to diversify his local investments as the years wore on, in which fields he likewise found success.  From the archive of the Bridgton Historical Society we find records of his involvement in the Walker Log Slip, a local timber-running operation which brought Bridgton’s logs to Portland sawmills, and “Andrews Hill” near West Bridgton is said to have been named after extensive land holdings which Merchant Andrews once possessed in the Hio district.  This claim is upheld by Lewis’ recollection that “Mr. Andrews became an extensive dealer in real estate as well as conducting a wholesale department at the store,” and while the sale of these lands surely profited him, perhaps the greatest payoff from any of his outside investments came in the form of business holdings he developed in Portland.  “Yankee energy and push would find vent,” Lewis notes, so when an iron foundry was established in Portland, Andrews purchased it, after which “the business was under his direction.”  From the letters of the Perley family, we know that at least one of the things this foundry was making were naval cannons, likely for the War of 1812, one of which would later feature prominently in Bridgton’s 1830’s anti-slavery protests.  And, just as his investment in the freight barges soon afforded him the nickname Captain, it was likely his involvement in the Portland ironworks which earned Andrews the last and most remarkable of his local titles – “Iron Man Andrews;” though it must be said that at the 75th Anniversary celebration of Bridgton Academy, A.S. Kimball declared that Merchant Andrews was a “man of great energy, and indomitable will.  When he had once started, for the purpose of accomplishing any desired object, he seldom faltered or turned aside till he secured the wished for result, hence the name of “Iron Andrews” which attached to him for many years, indicating that tenacity of purpose which ever characterized his course in life.”  Upon reflection, it seems to us that Iron Andrews was a fitting description, whatever the reason.

Samuel Andrews, whether Captain, Iron, or Merchant, put this “tenacity of purpose” to good use, and as consequence he ranks among Bridgton’s most important early settlers on account of how he directed his energy.  Yes, the running of the ferry did make him tremendously wealthy, but it also provided a great and necessary service for the town, and while he was sometimes a shrewd and uncompromising trader, he had a heart that was civically inclined, and put his fortune to good use in the developing of Bridgton’s early civic organizations.  Beside the old Stone Store he raised up a great hall, also three stories and likewise designed with the same brick firewalls; a feature he also added to his personal home “so that but one half of the house could be burned by the same fire.” This hall was built to store his dry goods, and he also operated a cider press at ground level, but the third floor was left vacant for communal use, and it was there that Bridgton’s first Masonic order was organized in 1804.  When, in 1806, the idea of founding a school was first agitated, Andrews donated $500 for the organization of Bridgton Academy, and moved by “a commendable spirit of local pride,” he “desired to have the Academy located in his particular section of the town.”  His site was chosen by committee, and in 1809 the school was incorporated, he being its largest donor, a founding trustee, and its first treasurer.  For the first twelve years of its existence, being without classrooms, it held its classes on the third floor of his storehouse, a painting of which survives today in the collections of the Bridgton Historical Society.  “At that time,” says Kimball, “when funds were much needed to bring the school into notice, this position was attended with difficulties, the Treasurer being frequently obliged to make temporary advances from his own resources.”  Ernest Stevens’ Brief History of Bridgton Academy honors the generosity of Andrews with the touching observation; “To few men, if any, does the Academy owe so much.” 

Merchant Andrews married twice and had six children; his son Samuel 2nd, and daughters Elkanah, Zilpha, Belinda, Hannah, and Sophia.  I wish to thank our premier genealogist Caroline Grimm for her assistance in gathering this information.  Andrews’ first wife was one Hannah Smith, and upon her death he later married Prudence Abbott, with which he fathered many of his daughters – the last two of which were still living in 1895.  Through the Chase family, some of their descendants are still among us.  In all things, we find a certain magnitude about everything Merchant Andrews did, and we sense that a large part of his life’s motivation was the drive to leave a mark on the world, to leave behind evidence of his existence and well-spent time here.  He believed this, religiously, for he was as Farnsworth calls him a “Swedenborgian.”  The reason for the hulking size and stone construction of his buildings was two-fold; first and foremost being security in the short-term, but their second and most important aspect was their planned permanence in the long-run.  They must remain, for he believed they must someday be useful to him again.  He, as the followers of that short-lived sect did, “expected to return to this ‘mundane sphere’ after being dead for one thousand years,” whereupon he would be raised up to walk in a new paradise on earth, and again “occupy these buildings.”  This may be the deeper meaning behind why he called the old Stone Store his personal “monument,” one he intended to be far greater than even his extensive family plot in the High Street burying ground. 

Merchant Andrews died in 1837, and with not yet a fifth of his proscribed rest elapsed we will turn without comment to those others who, in the years after his death, next occupied his buildings.  When the Academy first departed to its present location in 1813, Merchant Andrews opened the Masonic Hall as a place for community functions, and Harrison’s historian Granville Fernald recalled in 1901 how “The old Masonic Hall was one of the most familiar factors of the social life of North Bridgton for more than seventy years… In that old hall, some of the most notable local organizations, besides the Masonic Lodge and Watchman’s Club, were born and flourished.”  The use of this hall did not cease after Andrews’ death, with both the Hall and Store evolving into community centers of extreme importance in the decades which followed.  In the Masonic hall was held the meetings of such later organizations as the North Bridgton Brass Band, the 1850’s ‘Know-Nothing’ political party, and the local branch of the pro-Lincoln ‘Wide-Awake’ club during the Civil War, and concerning the old Stone Store, it later became a boarding house for Bridgton Academy scholars.  A wonderful account from this era of the building’s use has come down to us in an 1889 story by one Miss Mary Jane, whose mother had attended Bridgton Academy “in the old days when the Academy, then in its infancy, held its sessions in the Masonic Hall, now crumbled away, as well as the ancient stone store of the first merchant of the town, whose residence nearby was considered very stately in ye olden time.”  Ms. Jane herself attended BA in the early 1860’s, and she remembered well the boarding house with its “garden fragrant with old-time flowers,” and “quaint furniture and books, with which the house was filled.”  She and her sister both took up residence as boarders in “the ‘old castle,’ as it was called, the home of the venerable merchant in by-gone days...  One corner of the ancient castle was occupied by a pleasant-faced lady and her fair-haired little daughter, who appeared in answer to our summons with the old-fashioned brass knocker, which resounded through the empty room.  She informed us that all the rooms except the third story were occupied by students.  On examination, this room proved to be quite desirable – large, lighted by five windows, with an old fashioned open grate, which Betsy thought would be very cheerful indeed.”

In Jane’s story we find a perfect example of how, following his departure from our “mundane sphere,” Andrews’ life was transformed by fancy, his store becoming a so-called “castle” by the lake.  Looking through our annals we find Ms. Jane is not alone in her observation, for Lewis points out that for generations the old Stone Store was “an object of interest and curiosity to every scholar at the academy, in the years gone by… and many a boy and girl thought it not less worthy of interest than the “Old Castles” on the Rhine.”  The castle became a landmark for local scholars and features strongly in several incidents throughout Academy history, the most notable of which being the Perham Rebellion.  Charles O. Stickney, the famed New England historian, had been among that number of scholars who, in 1850, led a protest march against the administration’s cancelling of their annual exhibitions in lieu of a charity concert to raise money for the music department, for which the students themselves were expected to pay.  In 1901 Mr. Stickney recalled; “Our rallying and starting point was that castle looking building, the old ‘Merchant Andrews’ stone store, close by Long Lake.”  Likewise do the History of Bridgton Academy, several articles in the Bridgton News, and even a BA catalogue from this period each make reference to the building as the old “Stone Castle.”

And so Merchant Andrews passed into history, and thence into fable; his store transformed into an ancient castle, his name lost beneath a shower of weighty titles, his boat a mythical, imprecise obstruction ever lurking in the Songo River’s murky depths.  This transformation, begun shortly after his death, was completed decades later when the last landmark of his presence in North Bridgton slipped away into the eternal past.  For all his life’s labors, the eradicating efforts of time moved quickly in his absence.  In the Bridgton News of March 22nd, 1872 we find the ominous note; “James Webb Jr., of Portland, son of Col. Webb, has recently purchased of the Andrews heirs the large brick building at North Bridgton known as “The Castle,” together with the adjoining wooden cottage in the rear of the old Stone Store.  The knowing ones declare there is something in the wind.”  So there was.  In 1874 Mr. Webb, seeking to redevelop the land, burned the Masonic Hall and wooden superstructure of the old Stone Store despite of all Andrews’ firewalls.  The brick layers were not enough, it seems, to hold off that which Andrews could not have foreseen; a fire intentionally set.  The remaining stone walls were broken down shortly afterwards, and “the huge granite blocks utilized for various purposes” around North Bridgton.  As for his home, it was likewise remodeled and changed heavily through the decades, and while a house yet remains on its foundations today, there is very little remaining there which can stand in evidence of Andrews’ singular, iron determination.

Today the presence of Merchant Andrews in North Bridgton remains only as a name, a character about which now clusters a cloud of unclear and uncertain whispers.  We have done our best, in the preparation of this history, to gather up what scraps remain and organize them into a meaningful portrait of a person who may be the most remarkable man to ever make Bridgton his home.  These stories comprise a living collection of legends, facts, and local anecdotes; stories dimmed by the passage of centuries and made indistinct by the additive influence of generations.  One final story, that of the Treasure of Merchant Andrews, seems as fitting a conclusion for his biography as any we have found.  We here reference the tale of Bridgton Academy alumni Harriett Ann Bachelder, who boarded in the old Stone Store in 1864.   There, on the eve of the Civil War, Miss Bachelder conducted a methodical search through the whole structure on a treasure hunting expedition.  From the “dim old attic, whose rafters were festooned with the cobwebs of ages,” down “to the musty cellar,” she searched many days in quest “for the pot of gold buried by the venerable merchant, according to the old traditions of the place.”  If this legend has any basis in truth, it would seem that Andrews, in what is perhaps the shrewdest move imaginable, seems to have set aside something of an insurance plan against the Almighty.  If he was to be raised again and returned to these buildings, as his faith assured him he would be, he was not above placing there a hidden fund of that old-time gold, just in case.  Should ever his fellow souls find need of a merchant in their earthly paradise, Andrews went to his grave with the assurance that he would be ready to meet that demand, just as he had done in life.  Harriett did not find his treasure – “In vain the search!” she mourned – nor has anyone else, and if the legends are true that means it’s still buried in North Bridgton today.  Who can say? 

But there is another treasure which Merchant Andrews left for us, and it is plainly found in Bridgton if one knows where to look.  There, in that little village on the edge of the lake, remains a monument much larger than any Andrews ever raised up in iron or stone.  On a hill overlooking the quiet beach where Andrews first founded his mercantile empire, Bridgton Academy remains, and until that final bell rings its last, the name of Merchant Andrews and the work to which he devoted his life in Bridgton will never be forgotten. 

A fitting monument indeed.

© 2020 by the North Bridgton Historical Society