It Happened in Windham: Anyone famous from Windham?

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To answer the oft-asked question, “Did any famous people come from Windham?” there are several: a Portland mayor and politician, a ballplayer, an actress and an anti-slavery leader and Massachusetts governor – among others.

John Anderson was born on the lower end of the River Road in 1792. After attending the local one-room schoolhouse, he studied law at Bowdoin College, was admitted to the bar in 1816 (while Maine was still part of Massachusetts) and opened an office in Portland. He was a member of the Maine State Senate and Chair of the Committee on Naval Affairs in the 22nd Congress. From 1833 to 1836 he was Mayor of Portland and the Collector of Customs for the Port of Portland from 1837-1841 and 1843-1848. Elected Mayor again in 1842, he continued to practice law and died in Portland in 1853. He is buried in the cemetery that was part of the ancestral Anderson farm on River Road.

Willard Eben Mains was born in Windham after the Civil War. At the age of 19, he joined the National League as a pitcher. He was part of the team called Chicago White Stockings. Only playing in two games in 1888, he took a break until 1891 when he pitched 30 games for the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers of the American Association. Later he pitched a couple of games for the Milwaukee Brewers. Other teams he played for included the Boston Beaneaters. His son Jim pitched a game for the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics. Mains died at the age of 54 in Bridgton.

Jean Marie Donnell was born on July 10, 1921, in South Windham. Her father, Howard Donnell, was employed at the Maine Reformatory (today’s Correctional Center) and her mother taught school. When she was young, the family moved to Maryland and attended a Boston drama school where she met and married Bill Anderson. They moved to Los Angeles where she assumed her childhood nickname, Jeff, and became an actress. From 1942 on through the 1950s, she was steadily employed and in the early 1960s worked with comedian George Gobel on a sitcom and then in several “Gidget” movies. She was married four times. In 1988 she died after a serious bout with Addison’s disease.

John Albion Andrew was called “a lawyer of a low type and a brutal fanatic” by an Albany newspaper when he was elected governor. He was born in South Windham, one of four children, to local merchant Jonathan Andrew and Nancy Pierce, a teacher at Fryeburg Academy. His mother died when he was 14. He was homeschooled and then attended Gorham Academy and Bowdoin College, where he ranked near the bottom of his class. He moved to Boston to study law and in 1840 opened his office on Charles Street. Andrew was involved in and started many anti-slavery organizations.

He was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1861, the eve of the Civil War. He authorized the formation of two regiments of black infantry, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts. (Remember the movie, “Glory.” Andrew left the office of governor in 1866 and returned to the practice of law, Governor Andrew died in 1867 of apoplexy after having tea at his home in Boston. He is buried in the Hingham (Old Ship) Cemetery in Hingham, Mass. He may not be well known in his hometown of Windham, Maine, but he is honored elsewhere:

In 2007, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick hung Andrew’s portrait over the fireplace in his office, calling him an inspiration.

A full-size statue of Andrew on a pedestal is at his grave in Hingham.

John A. Andrew Street, in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, is named in his honor, and his name is one of four on the Soldier’s Memorial in the same community.

Andrew Square in South Boston and the associated MBTA Red Line subway station Andrew Station also were named in his honor.

John Andrew Hospital at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., is named for him.

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