It Happened in Windham: An idyllic New England farm


When I first moved to Windham more than 30 years ago, I can remember driving by a beautiful old yellow house on River Road. It didn’t seem that anyone lived there, and there was a small cemetery right out front. Its unique Gothic architecture gave the place a rather eerie feel and for years, my husband and I referred to it as “the haunted house.”

Then I joined the Windham Historical Society and learned that the house is actually known as the Anderson-Lord House or Maplewood Farm. The 135-acre property that runs from River Road to the Presumpscot River has been in the same family since the land was purchased by Abraham Anderson way back in 1738.

Abraham Anderson was the fifth settler in the township of New Marblehead, as Windham was known in the eighteenth century, and the first settler to build a house on the main road. Most fellow early inhabitants of Windham tended to erect homes closer to the river because it was the major thoroughfare of the time and it formed the border to their properties.

Abraham was to become a prominent inhabitant of the town and was said to possess not only sound judgment, but also undaunted courage. He is remembered for his participation in the final battle with Chief Polin in 1756 where the war chief lost his life.

When Abraham died in 1768, his son Edward came into possession of the property. He built what is now the core of the farmhouse shortly after he was married in 1774. The site was selected by his father whose house was on the opposite side of Main or River Road. In 1790, Edward exchanged this home and the farm for his brother’s property on Windham Center Road. The house he built there is still standing today and still has many of its original features.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the property was in the hands of John Anderson, a well-known Maine politician. He was a state senator, a member of Congress and mayor of Portland in 1833 and in 1842. It was John Anderson who commissioned Portland architect Charles A. Alexander to make the Gothic Revival renovations to the house that we see nowadays. He transformed the original simple farmhouse into a gracious summer estate and gentleman’s farm. It was also during John’s time at the estate that the separate barn on the property was enhanced with its clipped gable roof and board and batten siding.

Upon John’s death in 1853, the homestead was occupied by his son John Farwell Anderson and his wife, Marcia, and their family. A civil engineer and renowned agriculturalist of the time, John F. made Maplewood Farm one of the most successful farms in Windham during the 1860s. He was the first person to introduce Devin cattle to Maine and this added to his success.

Years later, Maplewood Farm was passed down to Anderson descendants Annie H. and C.W. Lord. It was maintained as a farm into the 1940s. In 1991, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Many family members are buried in Anderson Cemetery, which is just a short drive down River Road from the house. Strangely, this is said to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in all of Windham.

Although they don’t live there year round, current members of the Anderson and Lord families still visit the farm to this day. They have a family reunion each year where they get to enjoy their lovely old homestead. I’m not sure if there are any ghosts joining them at these gathering, but if there are, I’ll bet they’re glad to see that their magnificent Maplewood Farm is still in the possession of their family.

The Anderson-Lord House, also known as Maplewood Farm, sits on River Road across the street from the Parson Smith House.

The barn with its Gothic Revival features is another building with historic significance on the Maplewood Farm property.