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The Dowst Family

(Old Vienna Storekeepers)

By Carole J. O’Connell

Down through the years, Vienna has been home to many storekeepers, but arguably none as enduring as the Dowst family. Henry Dowst was born October 1817 in Vienna, son of Ozem and Betsey Burrill Dowst who had come here from Epsom, New Hampshire. Henry followed his father into farming, and in 1840 married Mary Jane Blackstone of New Sharon. Like most couples of their time, they were quite prolific giving birth to nine children, of which, three died before reaching adulthood. Of their six remaining children, all sons, four served in the Civil War.

Shortly before his boys went marching off to war, Henry opened a dry goods store on the southwest bank of the Mill Stream at what is now Town House Road in the Village. He surely must have missed their helping hands in his business endeavors, as he was left with only the help of Clarence Laforest a pre-teenager and Granville Blackstone barely school age.

  • The eldest son, Dana Milton Dowst, served in Company E, 24th Maine Infantry and died of disease in 1863 at Bonnett Carre, Louisiana.
  • The second son, Selden Manassah Dowst, served in the 4th Maine Light Artillery, and died of disease in 1865 at Washington, D.C.
  • The third son, John Alanson Dowst, served in Company I, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery and was wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. After recovering from his wounds in a hospital at City Point, Virginia, John married and relocated to Brooklyn, New York, where he owned his own business as a cider and vinegar manufacturer. He later applied for and received his war pension benefits, and died in Brooklyn between 1890 and 1900.
  • Son number four, Henry Ferdinand Dowst, served in Company F, 12th Maine Infantry. After the war, he married and settled first in Boston and later in Bangor. He was the father of prolific writer Henry Payson Dowst. Dowst received his war pension benefits, and died in Bangor in 1929.

On Christmas Day of 1872, son number five, Clarence Laforest Dowst, married Arrazina Allen, daughter of Benjamin F. Allen and Sarah B. Neal. The couple resided in Vienna and of their six children, only three lived to adulthood.

Exactly two months later, the youngest son of Henry Dowst, Granville Blackstone Dowst, died at the age of 16 years. Of nine Dowst children born, the only one remaining in Vienna was Laforest, who worked at the store with his father.

Henry continued operating the store until his death in 1895, when the store passed to Laforest. Operations continued until Laforest died in 1915, and his two bachelor sons, Dana and Orville took over operations. Orville passed away in 1935. We are not sure exactly how long Dana continued in the business, but the store burned down on April 24, 1948. Dana passed away on September 28, 1948.

Thus, it would appear the Dowst family had the longest tenure of any storekeepers in Vienna, having operated successfully at the same location for three generations spanning well over eighty years. The Dowsts are buried in the Vienna Village Cemetery.

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