John Mitchell, an 18th century farmer, shipbuilder and trader, bought the Kennebunk Lower Village lot upon which St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery now stands in 1742 and built a house near a Native American encampment that was just north of Gooch’s Creek. (See Wm Barry Map Segment) Feeling vulnerable to attack during the French & Indian Wars, Mitchell garrisoned his house for the protection of his family and his European neighbors.
Pig iron industrialist, William A. Rogers of Buffalo, N.Y. purchased the Mitchell Garrison from John G. Mitchell on Sep. 18, 1906. Buffalo architects Green and Wicks designed a 6,300 square foot Tudor summer home for Rogers and H. Davenport and Co. of Boston custom built all the furnishings. Outbuildings included a gardener’s cottage, servant’s rooms, a garage and a boathouse on the river. The famous Olmstead Brothers Landscape Architecture firm of Massachusetts, who designed gardens at the White House, The Capitol Building, Central Park and The Boston Common, was hired to create a natural landscape at ‘Fairfields’.
The estate cost over $150,000 to build. When it was nearing completion in March of 1907 a reporter for The Boston Daily Globe called ‘Fairfields’ “The Finest Estate on the Coast of Maine.” Rogers originally vowed to preserve the old Mitchell Garrison that was some distance from his new home but he had demolished it by 1912. Rogers also purchased the neighboring Hewett Hotel in 1917 and tore it down to make way for a new cottage for his married daughter. ‘Fairfields’ was owned by the Rogers family for 29 years.
Mildred V. Campbell, daughter of Sanford textile tycoon, Louis B. Goodall, bought ‘Fairfields’ and all its furnishings in 1936. The Campbell family enjoyed 11 seasons at ‘Fairfields’. Mildred’s husband William N. Campbell, who ran the Goodall mills until 1944, died on Sept. 8, 1947. That very same day, Mildred signed a deed conveying ‘Fairfields’ to The Society of Franciscan Fathers of Greene, Maine, for $150,000.
Latvian born, Father Justinas Vaskys, Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Fathers in USA, fled the Franciscan Monastery in Kretinga, Lithuania during World War II and established a temporary monastery in Pittsburgh, Pa., to reunite Franciscan Fathers who were being dispersed by the 1940 Soviet occupation of Lithuania. In 1943, Fr. Vaskys bought a farmhouse in Greene, Maine, and remodeled it to fit the requirements of a new monastery, Mount Saint Francis. The Order soon outgrew the Greene farmhouse.Larger quarters were sought. When the Campbell family offered the Friars a five-year, interest free loan for the final third of the sale price, a deal was struck. ‘Fairfields’ officially became St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery on Sept. 21, 1947.