Reflections: Peter Hastings, the people’s attorney

Peter Hastings of Fryeburg

‘Reflections’ is a series of stories on citizens in and around Fryeburg written by Rachel Andrews Damon.

Peter Hastings, 82, of Fryeburg can tell you exactly how he got here.

Two Hastings brothers, Thomas and John, came from England in 1634. One of them settled in Haverhill, Mass., and the other came through Fryeburg, but settled in Bethel. Two centuries later, 1847 to be exact, Peter’s great-grandfather, David, opened a law office in Lovell, the original Hastings family law practice. In 1861, he left the firm for a while to serve with the 12th Regiment, Maine Infantry in the Civil War. He fought several battles for the Union in New Orleans.  David contracted dysentery while in Louisiana and in 1863 was sent home and not expected to live.  He survived.

After his recovery, David Hastings moved his law office from Lovell to Fryeburg. His only son, Edward, joined the law firm in 1879. Edward’s son, Hugh, joined the firm in 1914.

In 1920, after serving as a captain in WWI, Hugh married longtime family friend and local teacher Martha Fifield, age 28.

Martha and Hugh had eight children — Helen, Edward II, David II, Hugh II, Jane, Mary and Peter. One child was stillborn after injuries sustained in a car accident. Helen was born at Memorial Hospital in North Conway. As Peter says, “They thought it was important that the first child be born in a hospital, but the rest of us were born at our family home on Oxford Street in Fryeburg. I was born in my mother’s bed!”

Hugh Hastings was appointed a judge in 1943, hence going by his lifelong, local name “Judge Hastings.”

Assistant Judy McIver and Attorney Peter Hastings.

Growing up in Fryeburg, Peter’s favorite memory was the month of April when he was taken out of school to go trapping with his mother and father at the family camp on Kezar Pond.

“We had no electricity and no running water at camp, but did have a 28-party telephone line. My father did his work from there as needed. I spent hours and hours trapping muskrat with my father. One year, we got 411 of them and they sold for up to $4 each. $1,600 was a very big deal back then. My father would also ‘trap the girls a fur coat.’ He would send the pelts to Murphy’s in Lewiston to make coats for each girl in the family. They were beautiful. I still have one of the coats he made for my mother.”

At Fryeburg Academy, Peter excelled in sports, particularly baseball, and was the team catcher. He was an avid hunter and recalls being sent home from school during hunting season for not shaving. One of his teachers encouraged him to regale classmates with his hunting stories. Peter feels it was mostly to learn his locations! During his senior year, he gave up basketball for a time because he got a horse instead. That horse was kept at what is now Fryeburg Academy’s Fessenden House, which no longer serves as a horse stable but as the residence of the head of school. Peter graduated from Fryeburg Academy with the Class of 1953.

Peter says he thought he wanted to be a farmer around that time. That thought left him when a family friend woke him up at 10 a.m. one day and told him, “If you’re going to be a farmer, you should have been up five hours ago.”

Peter’s real-life plan was to become a lawyer. He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, where he was a baseball player and ski racer. He finished his undergraduate degree in 1957. Bowdoin, founded in 1794, is the oldest college in Maine, and includes alums such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, both Class of 1825, Senator George Mitchell, Class of 1954, and Leon Gorman, Class of 1956, the grandson of L.L. Bean who went on to become president and CEO of the Bean family company. Leon Gorman and Peter Hastings were roommates. Peter’s great-grandfather David, was Class of 1845, grandfather Edward, Class of 1879, father Hugh, Class of 1911, and brothers David, Class of 1946 and Hugh II, Class of 1950.

Peter went on to law school at Boston University and continued on to NYU’s graduate school of business for further training in finance. In 1958, he married Anne Amirault of Bath, a recently graduated dental hygienist working in Brookline, Mass. They began a family in 1960 with the birth of their first son, Mark.

Peter passed the bar exam in both Maine and New Hampshire. In 1961, he moved his young family to his hometown and joined the family firm, Hastings & Sons.

Peter and Anne’s family expanded with the births of children Greg (1961), Allison (1962), Bradley (1964) and Carrie (1966). They all attended Fryeburg schools. Mark, Greg and Allison are lawyers. Greg attended Bowdoin representing a fifth generation of Hastings alums. Bradley owns the largest indoor dog daycare facility in Boston.  Carrie lives in California and travels extensively with her husband. Greg has two children and Allison has three.

Peter and Anne divorced after 29 years of marriage. After a few years as a bachelor, Peter was introduced to Stephanie “Stefi” Reed Markham of North Conway by caring friends. Stefi, an accomplished photographer, has served on several local boards and nonprofits, most recently the New England Ski Museum. Peter and Stefi married in 1991. Peter’s merged family now meant seven children with the addition of Stefi’s daughter, Tinka and son, Sam.

83 years old in July, Peter still practices law regularly. “I work almost every day,” he said.

Judy McIver has been Peter’s assistant since 2000.

“Peter is well known for being a people’s attorney. Appointments have not always been necessary with him. On many occasions, clients would walk through the front door and Peter would graciously take them into his office without hesitation. If clients were unable to come to the office due to poor health or sickness, Peter would go to them. He recognized hardship cases and offered to help in any way he could,” she said. “Peter is a wealth of knowledge of everything Fryeburg. He was an amazing litigator and courtroom attorney. I’ve always said, Peter could get more work done in an hour than most attorneys could in a day.”

Hastings Law Office changed its name to Hastings Malia in 2013 when attorney and non-family member Peter Malia of Fryeburg became a partner.

As a devoted and loyal citizen to the town of Fryeburg, Peter says, “To me, Fryeburg is still a small town where people are very supportive of one another. I think we have been fortunate to have Fryeburg Academy here. Fryeburg has grown tremendously. In 1961, the population was about 1,900, now it’s around 3,500. We have a good mix of people. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. I’ve been very blessed to have been able to stay in Fryeburg and make my living here.”

On a national level, Peter has concerns about the country’s divisiveness.

“As a young person, I admired Kennedy even though I was a Republican at that time. He brought out the best in us. As a nation, we are much better together than apart,” he said. “America has always been a wonderful place for people to come. We are a country of immigrants. It’s how we started and how we’ve grown. I don’t think we can shut the door. It doesn’t help us to keep out those who are going to be our fiber and future. We’ve always lived best through our immigrants if you will. They’ve been the backbone of our country.”

Peter and Stefi Hastings spend their days fairly quietly now. They are both avid readers and walkers.

“Reading is the greatest pastime. I like all books and really enjoy history,” Peter said.

Peter and his sister, Mary Hastings Dumas, are the two surviving children of the eight offspring of Hugh and Martha Hastings of Fryeburg.

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