Harpswell Historical Society

Incorporated 1979

929 Harpswell Neck Road
Harpswell, Maine  04079

The Harpswell Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, identification, collection, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of materials relating to the history of Harpswell and its people.

Table of Contents

Historic Park 
and Museum

Links to 
related sites


Occupations in Harpswell Maine in the Early to Mid 1900's

Clem Dunning: Farming

By students of West Harpswell School

A 2001-2002 Harpswell History Project


Growing up
Living on a Farm

Clem Dunning: Farming


Clem's full name is Clement Dunning. He was born in the house that he lives in now in 1916. His parents' names were William and Mary Dunning. He has two sisters, Nellie and Annie and he had one brother, John. Nellie lives in Presque Isle and Annie lives in Topsham. John is no longer living. The barn at the Dunning Farm was built in 1831 and it is 123 years old. The house was built in 1887 and it is 111 years old.

Clem's ancestors first came to Harpswell in 1734 and lived in what is now the oldest house in Harpswell. It is the house that is just before the Mountain Road Bridge. It is the same house that Henry Barnes grew up in.

The Dunning Farm had cows, horses, sheep and hogs. They raised vegetables and hay for cattle. They raised potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, turnip and other vegetables. The hay was used to feed the stock. The Dunnings had sheep for wool and hogs for meat. They ate the things they grew and sold some of it too. They also sold milk and Clem's mother made butter to sell.

The Dunnings had to carry water from the well and it was hard work. Clem said, "We had no running water unless your mother sent you running to get a pail of water." Everything was done by hand.

The roads weren't plowed in the winter time. Clem's father used to go on the road with a big snow roller pulled by horses. The roller packed the snow down and made it easier for sleds and sleighs to go on the roads.

Boys had to milk cows by hand, fill the wood box, feed the animals before they went to school in the morning and when they came back at night. Girls helped with cooking and other chores in the house. These were family chores and Clem and his brother and sisters didn't get paid.

When Clem Dunning was a boy he used to like to horseback ride and play baseball and handball with a rubber ball. In May, groups of kids used to hang may baskets. May baskets would be filled with candy. Kids would hang a basket on the doorknob and yell, "May basket!" The kids in the house had to find the others who were usually hiding. Then they would chase them and catch them and maybe eat part of the candy.

There was work to do on the farm in every season. In spring the ground had to be ready for planting. In the summer the Dunnings had to cut the hay and take care of the garden. Hay had to be taken care of by hand and put into the barn. In the fall they had to get livestock ready for winter, and they also got the house etc. ready for winter. There was snow to be shoveled.

When Clem was a boy, hay was mowed by a machine which was pulled by a horse. It was dried in the sun and had to be pitched by hand. Later trucks were used. Now hay is raked by machine. It is baled by a baler and stacked in the farm

During the summer sheep were often put on Whites Island or Ragged Island for pasture. The sheep roamed all over the island and ate freely. This was a lot easier for the farmer because they didn't have to take care of them or build fences.

Clem said that there's a big difference in farm equipment today. Farmers used to depend on horses, sometimes oxen. Machinery of today is a lot easier and a lot faster to use.

Clem went to the North Harpswell School for his elementary education. It was across from the Mountain Road. School lasted form 9:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. There was no electricity back then, so on winter days students and the teachers had trouble seeing by 3:00 p.m. One of Clem's teachers lived on High Head. In those days schools didn't close on stormy days,so when it snowed that teacher had to come to school on snowshoes.

During high school Clem went to Brunswick High which was on Federal St. where Hawthorne School is now. The school was over crowded so when Clem was in the 9th grade he went to school only in the afternoon. The following year he went in the morning. After that the high school on Spring St. was built.

Clem went to the University of Maine in Orono. He studied agriculture and had subjects such as physics, chemistry, and farm management. World War Two started in 1941 and lasted until 1945. Clem left college and was in the service. After the war was over he finished college. He jokingly says, "It took nine and a half years for me to get through college." Clem's first job after finishing school was making ice cream. He got to eat all the ice cream that he wanted. After that he worked for the University of Maine for thirty-eight years helping farmers in the state and teaching . them new methods of farming and helping in many other ways. During that time he lived in Aroostook County, in the city of Bangor, and later in Yarmouth. When he retired he moved back to the farm in Harpswell. Clem mentioned the big forest fires of nineteen forty-seven that were all over the state of Maine from Fort Kent in northern Maine to the very southern part of the state. The fires caused a lot of destruction.

Clem and his wife, Marjory, had one daughter and now have three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Clem said, "I liked farming very much and I liked being able to help other farmers in the state do better." He always liked to see the land and the vegetables and the animals grow. He also liked to eat what he grew. The only thing that he didn't like was getting out of bed in the morning at five thirty a.m. During Clem's lifetime farming changed from an animal industry to one of machinery. The invention of automobiles made a big change in everyone's lives.