News from the Norlands

The Norlands Receives $150,000 Matching Gift Challenge

At the Washburn Norlands, we’re seeing double in 2024 – thanks to a generous Washburn Family Member, who has pledged to match every dollar donated to the Norlands, up to $150,000.

“This unprecedented gift shows the confidence efforts to reinvigorate the Norlands have garnered from the Washburn family. It is a powerful incentive for others to contribute, as their donations will go twice as far in supporting the Norlands’ mission and success,” said Ashley Heyer, Board President and a descendant of E.B. Washburne. “From community outreach through events to our Farm-to-Table dinners to our Living History Days to our school field trips and group tours, the Norlands is committed to strengthening the Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls area and welcoming people from around the world to experience a simpler way of life.”

The Washburn Norlands Living History Center provides a glimpse into the past, showcasing the history and heritage of rural 19th-century New England. The property, with its buildings and farm, offers a hands-on learning experience for visitors, allowing them to understand and appreciate the challenges and way of life of that era. 

Since 1808, Washburn Norlands has been the home of the descendants of Israel Washburn, Sr., whose children included four congressmen, two governors, two ambassadors, one Senator, a Civil War Captain, an Civil War General and the founders of Gold Medal flour and Pillsbury flour.  The Norlands estate included a stately Victorian country mansion with farmer’s cottage, a gothic style granite library, a Universalist meetinghouse, a one-room schoolhouse, an expanse of picturesque working farmland, 400 acres of historic trails and an expansive archive of 19th century documents and ephemera. 

“This gift allows us to expand our signature living history educational programs schoolchildren from across Maine have experienced over the past 50 years, improve access to our trails, embark on new natural history initiatives, preserve our historic buildings and ensure that our unique 19th century archive in the Washburn Memorial Library remains available for research and exploration,” said Heyer. “Plus, if the $150,000 goal is fully met, the donor has committed an additional $100,000 for a major project to be announced soon.”

When the campaign is completed, this donation will be the largest individual contribution in Norlands history. It comes on the heels of a major federal grant to restore the Washburn Memorial Library and the Meeting House.   

To donate to the Norlands – and have your contribution doubled – go to or mail a check to Washburn Norlands Foundation, 290 Norlands Road, Livermore, ME  04253.  At the Norlands, all donors are our members so contributions also include benefits including free admissions, discounts at the gift shop and more.  Businesses interested in event sponsorships should contact us at

Sustaining Memberships and higher include:

  • Free admission for 4 household members for 12 months
  • 20% off General Admission for accompanying friends & family 
  • A 10% discount in the Norlands Gift Shop  
  • A 10% discount on Farm-to-Table meals 
  • A Vote at the Washburn-Norlands Foundation annual meeting
  • Invitations to historical presentations on zoom and in person throughout the year
  • NARM Museum Admissions Benefits including free or discounted admission to over 1200 museums and cultural organizations through the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Program. Visit for the latest list of participating NARM organizations. 

Spring on the Norlands Farm: The Animals Have a Dramatic Sense of Timing

Good morning, Norlands. It’s the end of April, and the Dirigo high schoolers are coming to volunteer their time.

It’s been almost a week since the black ewe, Arya, gave us a new lamb, Karr. He’s a little dubious to look at him, on account of a subtle twist in his face, thanks to his time in the womb packed so tightly to the left, but he’s springy on his hooves now and black as black can be. I watched his mother gently swelling through the winter; his father encouraging her appetite. 

The animals at the Norlands have long had a keen sense for dramatic timing. Karr came along just after–and in fact during–our biannual sheep-shearing event, having broken her water between passes of the blade and outside the pen before an audience of two dozen. This was nothing new to the farm folk of the Norlands, who just last year on Maine Maple Sunday helped a goat mother bring forth the twin kids we have today, Silver and Cadwallader, who are as comfortable now with human crowds as on the day they were born.

That tradition continues today, as despite our plans for Emelia to instruct the volunteers on sapling gathering for a garden fence, Emelia is unavoidably detained: her sow is having piglets this very morning. I will have to handle the Dirigo High Schoolers alone.

I’ve put the sheep out to pasture ahead of the visitors, hoping to avoid unnecessary chaos and distraction. The flock is speckled with errant burrs despite their short fleece, and that’ll be just the problem for a dozen eager hands. The sheep won’t stand for strangers picking them over, but the yard certainly will. There’s new shoots of all kinds peeking up through winter detritus: grasses and nettles, rhubarb and daffodils, and burdock. I’ve prepared a dozen clippers and rakes for the young volunteers. With their attention, none of it will be burdock by tomorrow.

When they arrive, I modify my tone from the usual: more energetic for children, more assertive to encourage productive work. I welcome them and waste little time before putting tools in their hands. The air is cool, the wind is cold, but the sun puts working hands to rights.

Some of them are strangers to hard work, some of them seemingly old hands. The pasture’s looking a lot better by noontime. From time to time I see some activity out in the paddock. The black ram Deima seems too interested in the brown ewe, Astrid. It’s not the right season for that, and the elders are trying to seperate them. When the children break for lunch, I decide to herd them in to get the kids a chance to see the lamb up close.

The sheep have always been skittish of me, and it’s no different this time as I climb over the fence. brown Astrid and black Deima scatter from the shed, not to be cornered. But that’s when I spot a shape in the shade that doesn’t belong. It’s a curly-headed black lamb, and it’s much too flat and still.

For a moment I’m hurt. Did someone roll over onto Karr this morning, and crush him? But no, Karr was larger than this on his first day. I’ve reached the creature splayed out in the mud, its little legs thrown out straight, hips wide and flat, its tiny head resting limp in the dirt. I’m in disbelief, and implausible explanations keep swimming up in my brain. It must be new-born; it looks surely dead. I squat and slide my hands under its face and rump. I’m shocked again when it mewls weakly. We thought Arya would have twins; is this some kind of absurdly late delivery? “Absurd” does not do justice to the intervening week. Yet here I have a newborn pitch-black lamb in my arms, barely noticeable in the shade and the sunlit glare, browned over in mud and amniotic discharge. She (she is a she) is wet all over, and I can’t distinguish matted dirt from blood in her curly pelt.

Her legs apply weak pressure in my arms, her head bobs and lolls against my chest. Occasionally she mewls again, but I’m hardly comforted by it. I’m still flummoxed; I bring her into the barn where the visitors get a close look and a brutally honest display of farm life. They part for me by instinct, and as I stride inside the farmhouse, I am stuck between inscrutable and desperate needs. I don’t know where she’s come from. The cold needs dry. The mud needs wet. I put a washcloth under warm water and mop her off, crooning and asking her for another bleat, another jolt. I don’t know how this happened. I am not a midwife or even, truly, a farmer.

Our curator April and I speed down the hill to summon help, still clutching the lamb to my chest. Emelia’s dogs are excited to see a relative stranger in the yard, but they cannot deter me. I step into the barn where I know Emelia will be, crouched beside a four-hundred pound mound of swine, happily nursing piglets. Just in time.

Emelia knows: she knows just what to do. We head back up the hill, and spend a few uncertain minutes trying to see if she can be accepted by her mother. Emelia understands: this must be brown Astrid’s lamb, though none of us presumed she would birth it today, and none of us predicted it would be black: Deima’s daughter. Astrid can’t be coaxed back to her little cold lamb, so we relent. Emelia accepts: if she lives, she will go to great trouble to bottle-feed her. The little lamb’s tongue is cold to the touch. Towels, a hair dryer, a hot water bottle. The lamb joins Emelia in a baby-carrier to pick up the human kids from school. 

Emelia succeeds.
Good evening, Norlands. It’s the end of April, and I’m finally ready to believe it will not snow again. Songbirds flit from tree to tree, and the yard is abuzz with invisible flies startled aside as I walk. There’s new shoots of all kinds: grasses and nettles, rhubarb and daffodils. The chickens are laying once more; all the animals are full to bursting with new life. There is resurgence and renewal in the air, in the land, and in the Norlands.


Good night, Norlands. See you in the morning.
Dan Pugh, caretaker


Big News for the Library and Meeting House!

Empires may rise and fall; revolutions may convulse the world; governments may be dissolved; generations may come and generations may go; but this Library Building shall stand so long as the hills which surround it shall remain.

    – Elihu B. Washburne, Washburn Memorial Library Dedication 1885

Dear Norlands Supporters,

This weekend, we received the most exciting news the Washburn-Norlands Foundation has had in our 50 years – our long-sought funding to restore the 1883 Washburn Memorial Library and the 1828 Meeting House was approved by Congress thanks to the hard work of Senator Susan Collins. 

With this $3.42M Congressional District Spending allocation for the direct expenses incurred by the construction/restoration projects (not our year-to-year operating expenses we rely on our member donors to support) we will be able to return these historic spaces to their intended uses – for the communities of Livermore, Livermore Falls, Jay and for all Mainers. Visitors far and wide will come to hear the Washburn story, experience life in 19th century rural Maine, and discover the incredible peace that comes from spending time on our 400 acres. 

In 2008 when Historian David McCullough entered our remote library and the archive, he was so overwhelmed by the bounty of historical treasures that he had to go outside and sit under a tree to get some air in order to digest what he had just seen. McCullough with great urgency told us that restoring the library was essential to the Washburn story. He continued by stating that moving thevaluable collection to another location would not present it in context and therefore lessen its impact. The Washburn brothers intentionally chose to house their books and papers in Livermore, the home that drew them back from the world for their entire lives. It remains essentially untouched by time, making learning about their lives in this space an experience like no other for historians, students and all who enter. As his view of the library’s importance spread, people began to listen, and years later, this grant has come to fruition.

This grant will not only cover the restoration of the Library and Meeting House, it also can include renovating the storage barn as a welcome center with long-awaited bathrooms and an exhibit space to tell the Washburn story in even more detail.  When completed, the Meeting House will be available for weddings, memorial services, concerts, lectures and other special events. We can now return the Washburn Memorial Library to its intended purpose as envisioned by E.B. Washburne; an active resource with its books, archival material and original design. Additionally, it will employ a unique digital lending model that makes the library’s holdings available to all, presented in context. It will once again be a place for discourse and community education.

Now the Norlands Needs YOUR support.

While $3.42M is tremendous, it is only available for construction costs, paid over the course of the project. We need your help through donations and memberships now more than ever. In addition to our regular annual operating costs this , we expect to incur significant additional compliance related expenses including accounting, legal assistance, proper storage of the library contents, and construction oversight. This construction will temporarily limit our offerings, so we are anticipating a short term drop in programming revenue (don’t worry, we’ll still be active with field trips, tours, dinners and special days!). With your support, we can take full advantage of the tremendous opportunity that the funding will provide for our buildings, while we continue to regain our footing with programming opportunities for you, our friends of the Norlands. 

I hope that you will join me in supporting the Norlands at this critical juncture. As a member/donor, you do more than contribute financially; you become a steward of these magical 400 acres. You are free to visit whenever we are open and you may vote at our annual meeting on important decisions about the future of the history center operations. 

We look forward to your help and support as we embark on this unprecedented, transformative undertaking for the future of the Norlands, our community and our country.  We hope we will see you on Maple Sunday, March 24!

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, 

Ashley Heyer
President & Co-Director
Great-Great-Great Granddaughter of Elihu B. Washburne

Haunted Harvest Day October 28

On Saturday, October 28th, join us for Haunted Harvest Day at the Norlands. With a Maine Bean Supper in the Barn, a cemetery tour and a moonlight walk to the Pools of Simon with Hiram Briggs, Livermore’s beloved teacher who will have a tale to tell.

Plus, Mr. Washburn is bringing out his cider press. The same one that he shared with his neighbors. Come try your hand at making cider. Miss Lillian Washburn and Aunt MaryEllen will be in the Farmer’s Cottage making doughnuts from Grammy’s recipe.

Maine Bean Supper – $30 adults / $15 children under 12 (admission included)

Advance Purchase full day admission: $12 adults / $8 children.

Moonlight walk only – Free. Meet us on the piazza at 7pm.

Purchase Tickets at

2023 Annual Meeting October 13

Norlands Members are invited to join us on October 13 in the Meeting House to hear about our successes in 2023 and our plans for the future.  A reception will follow in the barn.  

Anyone who would like to learn more about becoming a member of the Norlands is welcome to join us as well. For anyone who cannot attend, this will be broadcast on zoom.

Click here to RSVP.


Our 50th fall season is off to a great start… and we need volunteers to make it the best in years! Between our Living History Days, School Field Trips, Site Tours, Farm-to-Table Meals, Events and more, The Norlands has something for everyone.

Adult volunteers can work in the barn, bake in the Farmer’s Cottage, sew in the main kitchen, give tours in the mansion, work in the gift shop, teach in the schoolhouse, present the Washburn family’s story in the Library and learn to interpret an actual Livermore resident in the 1870s.

Youth Volunteers are needed to spend time with Wally and Silver as our goatherd and lead games on the lawn as well as assist in all of the adult areas. Youth volunteers 14 and older do not need to be accompanied by a parent. And yes, we are a great place to get service hours!

Giving historical site tours during the week is a particularly fun volunteer experience because you lead small group of history lovers in a very engaging give and take about the 19th century. Inevitably, people leave fascinated with the Washburn story and impressed by the intimate “welcome to our home” experience of spending time at the Norlands.

At our popular farm-to-table meals, Emelia can always use an extra hand! This is another great opportunity for high school service hours!

And as to the burning question on your mind… if you’ve got the time to step back into 1870, we’ve got the clothes to take you there!

So contact us… and don’t worry, we will teach you everything you need to know to bring 1870s Livermore to life!