David P. Ordway was born in 1844 and by 1881 he had established a business in Belmont, Maine. In 1902 he moved it to Tannery Lane in Camden, known as the Dr. D. P. Ordway Plaster Co. It all started because he had suffered for many years with dyspepsia (better known today as indigestion) and had been unable to find relief. He experimented until he found a cure for himself and in doing so began a profitable, successful business.

He built a three and one-half story building, with no signs to tell what business was conducted there. Yet it became one of Camden’s most lucrative businesses. It manufactured plasters for aching backs and hurting corns, as well as ointment and other patent medicines. He employed 100 people. Much of the business was done through the mail, so packages were sent all over the world including Canada, Jamaica and South America. Also, premiums were mailed for selling these plasters. It was because of the Ordway business that Camden became a first class post office.

Ruth Anna Barrett was born in Lexington County, S.C., in 1871. She became a most attractive lady nearly 6 feet tall. When she was but 17 years of age she married a farm hand who died in 1890 and their only son died one year later. So she had to work to pay bills. Her father was a salesman for bedsprings and she helped him distribute them by writing letters in a very lovely penmanship. “Doctor” Ordway was on the customer list and noticed the beautiful penmanship. He asked Mr. Barrett to become an agent for his plasters and products.

Soon it became a mail-order romance between Ruth and Dr. Ordway that ended in exchanging pictures and even a proposal. Ordway and his mother met her at the pier in Boston. D.P. was tall, gray and handsome but much older than Ruth had pictured. Anyway his mother invited her to spend the night with her, properly chaperoned until the small wedding took place the following day. One year after the marriage they had a daughter named Pearl, after his mother, but she lived to be only 13 years of age. It took a toll on Ruth but that was only the beginning. Dr. Ordway’s investments were not smart, and he lost his share of the Plaster Factory to a partner who had financially helped him and himself. The same year he found a young Canadian girl and disappeared from Ruth’s life.

She bought a small cottage near Penobscot Bay in Camden, a town vacationers had just found, and to begin she took in about six boarders. As more and more people came for vacations she added rooms to the cottage until it became a summer hotel, known as the Whitehall Inn. When the movie “Peyton Place” was filmed in town in 1957, it helped put her inn on the map. During the 1960s, with its 50 rooms, the Whitehall Inn was known nationwide.

One of the guests was a new England postman, Victor Elmore, and after only a few weeks he proposed to her. She accepted the proposal on the condition that he would go into the hotel business with her. At that time it is said she was already worth $100,000. Together their venture was so successful that they bought hotels in the South as well.

They were prominent in Camden and he was elected to the State Legislature. Ruth worked supervising the staff, menus, interior decorating and purchasing. In addition, she was always a gracious hostess.

The Whitehall Inn was under her ownership when “Vincent” Millay came to the helps’ party with her sister Norma and received the chance to go to Vassar College by a summer guest who was vacationing there.

Before the stock market crash in 1927, the Elmores had just sold the Whitehall Inn and bought the large home across the street, naming it Ellsmere. There they enjoyed retirement and also at their cottage on a Camden lake.

Victor Elmore died in 1948, but Ruth still wanted to remain in Camden because of her many happy memories. She died in 1953, and was worth a million dollars, which she generously left to charitable institutions in Camden (and rumor has it her lawyer also received a very generous amount). Ironically, the lawyer who settled her estate was a partner with the lawyer who had invested in and taken over Ordway’s business. Her message to the young was “nothing is impossible, when someone wants to do it.”

Just a few years ago at the Whitehall Inn, there was an opened door near the Millay Room. Behind the door were two pictures of Ruth. One was when she first came here as a Southern belle, with a very low-cut neckline, and the other was the same picture with the neckline filled in properly for the conservative people of Maine.

She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery with her husband, Victor Elmore, in Section 5, Lot 82. Also her daughter Pearl is buried on the lot as well as her second husband, David P. Ordway, who died in 1913.

Look next time for a popular Camden businessman.