Fire destroys old schoolhouse in Casco; two charged with arson

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CASCO — A community is trying to understand an alleged act of arson that destroyed an old schoolhouse along with the historical artifacts inside. 

Two young men have since been charged following the Sunday morning fire that burned nearly 170 years of history at the old schoolhouse in Casco, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Friends Meetinghouse. 

According to a report from the Portland Press Herald, Devin Richardson-Gurney, 22, and Edward Scott, 20, were in court Monday and charged with setting the schoolhouse fire. A judge set bail for each man at $1,500 with a pretrial service contract after their lawyers said both are intellectually disabled. 

The Raymond-Casco Historical Society owns the building located behind the town library in Casco Village.

“Nothing was salvageable. Everything inside was burnt,” said Historical Society Treasurer and Past President Frank McDermott.

McDermott, who lives in Raymond, said the historical items stored within the old schoolhouse included old maps, school textbooks, library books, and furniture that would have been found in a one-room schoolhouse. 

He said it was “hard to put a price” on the items lost in the fire, noting that with some of the artifacts value was “in the eye of the beholder.”

Acting Casco Fire Chief Brian Cole said that the call came in around 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning, and that by the time the flames could be put out, the building was “a total loss.” 

Firefighters from Otisfield and Naples assisted Casco in the response. 

Cole, whose grandfather went to school in the historic building, called it “a loss for the community.”

“It’s far-reaching,” Cole said. 

According to a section on the Raymond Town website, the schoolhouse was first built in 1849 on Casco’s Quaker Ridge. Originally known as the Friends School House, it was later known as the Quaker Ridge School House and was eventually given to the Raymond-Casco Historical societies in the 1970s. 

It was at that time that the building was moved from Quaker Ridge to Casco Village, where it has sat behind the town library ever since. 

McDermott said that the Historical Society was working to move the schoolhouse to its museum on Route 302, and hoped the relocation could take place this summer. 

“It’s devastating to us, because we had great plans for the building — and people were excited for the move,” he said, explaining that with only about 8-10 people, the society has had trouble staffing both the museum and the schoolhouse at the same time. 

Despite the setback, McDermott said the group is having its first meeting of the year on Monday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at its museum on Route 302 and hopes members of the public will attend and consider joining the society. 

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said this week that the situation surrounding the fire is “really sad, and we don’t understand it.”

In addition to the schoolhouse, Morton said the back of the library also sustained several thousand dollars of damage including siding being ripped off the building. 

“The library can be repaired — the issue with the school is a lot of the things can’t be replaced,” Morton said. 

According to the Press Herald, Richardson-Gurney’s lawyer said her client has autism. Scott’s lawyer said his client receives services from Momentum, an organization that provides support to intellectually disabled individuals. 

Momentum has four locations in Maine, including in Casco and Windham. 

“People are upset, really somber,” Morton said about the mood in town. “It’s a significant loss.”

“I guess you can’t make sense of things that don’t make sense,” Morton said. 

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Two young men have been charged with arson following a Sunday morning fire that burned an historic schoolhouse in Casco. 

Two young men have been charged with arson following a Sunday morning fire that burned an historic schoolhouse in Casco. 

Edward Scott, left, and Devin Richardson-Gurney in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Monday, April 23. They are charged with setting the fire that destroyed the old schoolhouse in Casco. 

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