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Only Steps Forward: Story of famous Auburn benefactor is more relevant than ever

By Jonathan P. LaBonte

Mayor of Auburn

The name is as pervasive as any in this community. It’s in the newspaper regularly. You read it on posters, hear it from seniors at the local diner and from the mouths of kids. Yet more often than not, it’s associated with a building or the institution and not the man.

The name? Edward Little.

All of that will change in the coming weeks as Bates College Political Science Professor Emeritus Doug Hodgkin releases his newest book, “Dear Parent: A Biography and Letters of Edward Little.”

The roll-out began with a book signing at the historic home of Edward Little on Main Street, now owned by local CPA Robert Grieshaber, and will include other public events and presentations by Mr. Hodgkin.

Of particular note will be my invitation for him to present briefly on his research during the February 27 Auburnb City Council meeting at 7 p.m. during our presentations segment. You can tune in on the local access channel maintained by Great Falls TV or watch live-streaming online at

While it is not typical to have this type of presentation during our City Council meeting, I believe that, at this point in the history of the City of Auburn, the story of Edward Little is more relevant than ever. And it’s not just about the activities of his life, but also what he saw as the role of the business community and private philanthropy and what were important cornerstones of growing a town like Auburn.

The centerpiece of that was certainly education. The fact that he privately funded an academy (Lewiston Falls Academy) in the heart of the community is proof. It also makes for fun trivia for my friends around town that are anti-merger. Who knew that Auburn’s high school was named Lewiston Falls? What an abomination!

In all seriousness, it was in the transferring of this private academy to be a public school that the name changed to honor its major benefactor, and a statue was commissioned by world-famous sculptor Franklin Simmons to honor Edward Little with a permanent piece that graced our Main Street.

As the School Committee and Edward Little Building Committee embark on their journey with local architect Harriman Associates, we could learn much about how a modern academy can drive economic opportunity and enhance the civic life of our city. And not solely through the lens of what taxpayers can and should invest, but also the importance of all institutions in the community, public and private, lending assistance to the endeavor.

Much of what we see as we travel in the center of our community—the riverfront, the dams and canals, towering brick mill buildings, the street grid, railroads and so much more—are part of the fabric of our community because of the actions of Edward Little or other investors he influenced in his time here. And to understand where we want to go, I believe, you must understand the forces that brought you to today.

I’m personally excited to get my hands on a copy of Mr. Hodgkin’s new book. Having a local resident with enough love for the history of this place as Mr. Hodgkin has led to many works being published on topics ranging from the story of the Lewiston-Auburn Railroad Company to outlining Lewiston’s town politics. In the case of this book, the proceeds will benefit our Androscoggin Historical Society, which is based on the upper floors of the historic County Building.

Local stores in Lewiston-Auburn will carry the book, including Victor News (59 Park St., Lewiston) and the Bates College Store (65 Campus Ave., Lewiston). If you want to learn more, or perhaps have a local group that would be interested in hearing

from Mr. Hodgkin on his research, the historical society can be reached at (207) 784-0586.

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