From the Bridgton News, September 18, 1896.
A standout figure in the history of Bridgton, Maine, Winburn Milbury Staples wore many hats during his life, being a real estate dealer, banker, steamship owner, academy trustee, and town selectman and treasurer. In the late 1890s, he was elected to the first of two terms in his state's house of representatives and followed that by winning election to the state senate, where he also served two terms. The son of Charles and Sarah (Center) Staples, Winburn Milbury Staples was born in Naples, Maine on February 8, 1855.
Early in his life Staples attended the Naples district schools and at age ten removed with his family to South Bridgton. He continued his schooling at the Bridgton High School and Bridgton Academy, and during young adulthood briefly taught school as a means of income. In the late 1870s, he joined his uncle's mercantile store as a clerk and continued in that role until 1881. Staples married in November of that year to Idalyn Grove (1856-1939), to whom he was wed for nearly sixty years. The couple's lengthy union remained childless.
Having accumulated ample knowledge as to the daily running of a general store, Winburn Staples resolved to go into business for himself, and in 1881 opened his own general merchandise store in Bridgton, which he continued to operate for several years. This period of operation also saw Staples begin to dabble in real estate, and in the mid-1880s he and a partner erected a building in downtown Bridgton that would house not only the town post office but also the local Knights of Pythias Lodge. This building would be followed by the construction of a grocery store, which Staples conducted as a "thriving and extensive business". Further business successes came to Staples when he developed plans for a small steamboat on Lake Highland for recreational use for tourists and townspeople. This steamer, called the "Lady of the Lake", held at least ten passengers and would burn wood for fuel. This period of activity also saw him assume the posts of manager and treasurer of the Bridgton and Harrison Electric Co. from 1897-1902.
Active in the civic and fraternal life of his town, Staples was a longtime Mason, Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows Lodge member, as well as a "faithful member" of the Congregationalist church. Staples would make his first foray into the political life of Bridgton with his service as town treasurer from 1888-90. He would later be elected to the Bridgton board of selectmen and served as board chairman from 1894-96. Desiring for further political honors, Staples announced his candidacy for the Maine House of Representatives in 1896 and was elected to that body in September of that year "by a handsome vote of 380, or all but eight of the Representative votes cast in town." Several days following his election Staples' life and public doings were highlighted by the Bridgton News, which acknowledged him as:
"Generous and public spirited, he is ever ready to lend a helping-hand towards promoting the advancement and prosperity of the community in which he lives; and that he is a popular and respected member thereof the size of his plurality at Monday's election adequately demonstrates!"
From the Bridgton News, May 18, 1900.
Taking his seat at the start of the 1896-98 session, Staples would be one of over two dozen Cumberland County representatives serving in that session, and also had some oddly named company, his fellow representative being Plantville Preston Larrabee (also from Cumberland County) who was profiled here in April 2017. Staples' first term saw him serve on the committee on Inland Fisheries and Game, and in 1898 won his second term in the legislature, a term that saw him named to the committees on Commerce, County Estimates, Mercantile Affairs and Insurance, and Manufactures.
In the 1900 election year, Staples set his sites on a seat in the state senate, to which he was elected later that year. The 1901-03 senate session saw Staples named to the committees on Bills in the Second Reading, Counties, Indian Affairs, Manufactures, and he would go on to win a second term in late 1902.
Following the conclusion of his second senate term in 1905 Staples recommenced with his earlier business dealings in Bridgton and in 1908 was one of the organizers of the Bridgton National Bank. Soon after its establishment, Staples was named as its president, continuing in that role until his resignation in 1919. This bank would later fail during the Great Depression and in 1933 was "absorbed by a Portland concern." Seeing the need for a local bank, Winburn Staples personally wrote a check for $10,000 to be used to open a Portland bank branch in Bridgton, and along with $25,000 given by the town of Bridgton, a branch of the Cresco Bank and Trust Company was eventually developed.
Staples continued to be heavily involved in the affairs of his town well into his eighties, and during the winter months resided with his wife in Florida. In the late 1930s Idalyn Staples' health eventually failed and on February 10, 1939, she died at a Maine sanitarium, aged 82. Winburn Milbury Staples survived his wife by less than a month, dying at a St. Petersburg, Florida hospital on March 7, 1939, aged 83. A double funeral for both Staples and his wife was held on March 11 in Bridgton and both were later interred at the Forest Hill Cemetery in that town.
Now, nearly 80 years following his death, Staples memory remains alive in Bridgton in the form of the Noble House Inn, his former home that was built in 1903. First converted to a bed and breakfast in the 1980s, the inn continues to be sought out by tourists today.
From the Bridgton News, March 10, 1939.