A true factotum

By Barbara F. Dyer | Jun 13, 2019
Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer Pictured is the Fred Alden Packard family in 1909.

In my neighborhood, I have been always fascinated with one home in particular. It is a lovely home that I had never visited, but could see a wicker settee in front of a window and an old lamp, maybe a Handel or Tiffany. Recently the fourth generation of that family kindly invited me for a visit like I have never had before. The great-grandfather of the owner gave me an opportunity of stepping back to the early 1900s, as almost nothing has been changed. It is a wonderful museum of the past.

Fred Alden Packard was born December 3, 1858, to Leander Hewitt and Lucy Ellen Packard, in Warren. He built the house himself, around 1900. With him lived his wife, Marcia Delora Packard, their daughter, Ethel Frederica Packard, his wife's father, Mr. Andrews, and a boarder, Laura Doran, who was a school teacher. Also, a daughter Laura was listed, according to the June 2, 1900 census of Camden.

It was also a pleasure and privilege to read the journals that he meticulously kept every day, for every year from 1910 to 1939. He was up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. each day and recorded the temperature. One day, when it was 24 below zero, he wrote he had never seen it that low before. Then he noted the weather and its changes, as well as the direction of the wind. Very few people in Camden had an “auto” in those days, so I assumed he wore out many pairs of shoes. He did accounting at the Camden Woolen Mill each morning (probably at least two miles from home), back home to lunch and down to Main Street to his store in the afternoon. He went “down town” again every evening and quite often to the Y.M.C.A. It appears that he bowled quite often there, and was on the Imperials Team. Sometimes he went to the Y.M.C.A. in Rockport and/or Rockland to Directors' meetings. Also, monthly to a Stockholders' meeting in Reuel Robinson's office for the Camden Woolen Mill, and practiced with the male quartet. Faithfully, he attended the Baptist Church every Thursday evening and sometimes other evenings in the week, but on Sunday he attended it in the morning and evening, and did not work. He found time to go to choir rehearsals and also sang at many funerals. His penmanship was beautiful.

He had friends, like Holly Bean, who had an auto and who would take him to Lincolnville Center, and pick him up at Lincolnville Beach, to go “gunning” for partridges, in the fall. His wife would often serve the partridges and woodcock to company, who “took dinner” with them several times a week. He stayed home very little and when he did, he was planting his garden, mowing the lawn, working on a store in the garage, making a cement sidewalk, banking the house or adding a shed. He sometimes worked for Charles Wilson doing whatever was needed; sometimes painting boats at the Railway, or getting summer cottages opened. He would spend hours at the Bay View Garage working on the books. He apparently sold yard goods in Boston, Portland, Lewiston, etc., and would catch trains and electrics, at specific times, for two or three days at a time doing this, and arrived home maybe 10:30 P.M. and would be up at 5:30 the next morning doing the many things he did. And, of course, in the fall he went hunting, by some friend with a car to take him to a spot and pick him up later in the day.

He did not miss interesting speakers in the Opera House or at church. He had great interest in the Progressive Party, and went to Stephen Ritterbush's house to attend the political meetings held in his house. Fred Packard's interests and talents were numerous.

His wife was very busy at home taking care of their daughter, as well her father. Occasionally, Fred would stay home from prayer meeting, or Sunday night service, to be with her father, so she and their daughter could go to the meeting. His wife spent her time making dinner for their guests several times a week. She must have also de-feathered the partridges for cooking, which was a job I would not want to do.

He worked for Capt. Rich picking apples every season and painting at his home. It appeared that whenever a man was needed, he fit it into his busy schedule and they knew it would be done well. I really enjoyed reading about the way Camden was in my early years. Neighbors dropped in on one another and also lent a helping hand. He mentioned some of his neighbors on Chestnut Street and although the men had died when I moved in the neighborhood at the age of ten, their widows were our neighbors.

He spent Thanksgiving having people for dinner, and Christmas also having several people in for dinner and “picking the tree.”

Mr. Packard was busy every day, but took it all in stride. He took time to attend funerals of many Camden people. He never missed church, but with many things to do, he attended church always and kept the Sabbath holy He mentioned whenever fire had broken out in town that was noteworthy. Fred Packard had many friends of all types. Many were lawyers, businessmen, captains, as well as neighbors and day workers. He was in his 50s when he started, faithfully, to record his daily life. He has inspired me to do the same, but wishing I had done it earlier.

He died five years after I moved to the neighborhood, but from his daily journals, I feel I know him well. He is to be admired.


Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 15, 2019 15:31

Thanks Barbara. This is indeed a thoughtful well written story of a true Camdenite I love and appreciate these stories. .

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever

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