Reporting Aside

January 19

Waterville firefighting history coming alive in new book

Waterville fire Lt. Scott Holst says he’s amazed by the stories and personalities he’s uncovered in local research.

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HISTORY BUFF: Waterville Fire Department Lt. Scott Holst speaks beside a wall of photographs of former fire chiefs recently. Holst is updating and expanding on a book documenting the history of the department.

Staff photo by David Leaming

“He was helping the city’s public works crew in 1901 and he had his horses down in a pit, and it caved in,” Holst said. “The horses got spooked and Proctor went to grab the reins to control them, but they just overpowered him. They ran him over with their hooves and then the cart ran over him. He died instantly.”

Another firefighter, Millard Goding, was on the department just four months when he died in 1929, according to Holst.

“He was riding on the back of a fire engine, heading to Clinton, and they were going through Fairfield and they had a collision with a trolley car. They called them electric cars back then. Goding got tossed off the back and into a utility pole, which killed him instantly. He was 35 years old.”

Many of the city’s fire chiefs led interesting lives, according to Holst. Frederick Charles Thayer, for instance, was a surgeon who started Thayer Hospital at his house on Main Street. He was fire chief from 1878 to 1880.

The city got its first full-time fire chief, Fred Brown, in 1980.

Holst, 53, has been a firefighter 32 years, the last 20 in Waterville, where he was named Firefighter of the Year in 2001. He started his career in Winslow, where his wife, Ruth, comes from a family of firefighters.

Holst, who moved to Maine from Nebraska in 1981, has written two books about his own family ancestry.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at

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