If you have lived in the Augusta area for more than a few weeks, you have probably heard about Sand Hill.  Located North of downtown Augusta, and overlooking the Kennebec River, it is one of the main residential neighborhoods of the city.

From the 1800s through the mid-1900s many of the mill workers lived in the neighborhood because it was a short walk to the old Edwards Mill.  Because of this, the hill is dotted with a mixture of old tenement apartment buildings and single family homes.  Also, at one point, it was home to several small grocery stores.  In the days before everyone had cars, every neighborhood had a few of these “walkable” stores.  By some estimates, the city once had over 60 neighborhood grocery stores.

But, how did Sand Hill get its name?

There are several stories about the origin of the area’s name.  The one we are going to focus on today involves the construction of one of the hill’s most notable buildings: Saint Augustine Catholic Church.

According to the Saint Michael Catholic Parish website, La Paroisse de Saint Augustin was founded in 1887 to serve the thousands of French Canadians who moved to Augusta in the late 1800s.  These families moved to the area to work in the mills, hoping for a better life than they had in their small villages on the United States / Canadian border.  Many of them chose to settle on the hill just north of downtown Augusta.  Originally, this area was known as Cushnoc Heights.

Sadly, many people did not welcome these newcomers to the community.  Due in large part to the language barrier, the residents of Cushnoc Heights kept to themselves.  This was one of the main reasons they had their own church parish.

After obtaining land from the Edwards Manufacturing Company, the first church was built in 1888.  The church also served as a schoolhouse from 1892 through 1904.  The parish continued to grow and grow.  Within a few decades, it had outgrown the first church.

In June of 1913, the Edwards Manufacturing Company donated a plot of land at the crest of the hill, then still known as Cushnoc Heights.  That, in combination with a massive $20,000 donation allowed for the construction of the new church.

The new church was going to be massive enough to accommodate 1,400 worshippers.  It needed to be, as the parish had grown to encompass about 2,800 people.  Because of the size of the church, and the fact that it was going to be constructed from stone, there were concerns that the hill’s sandy texture would not support the weight of the building.  Instead of giving up, the parish priest, Father Decarie kept an all night vigil, with his arms held out like a cross.  The next day, builders found ledge and the construction continued.

Following that, the hill became known as Sand Hill.

Clearly, there are other legends about the naming of the hill.  To us, this story seems the most plausible.

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