Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Patriot vs. Loyalist

On the morning of September 23, 1780, three American militiamen stopped a man near Tarrytown, New York. Upon searching him, they found documents hidden in his stockings. He tried to bribe them, but they refused the bribe and took him to the American army headquarters. The man turned out to be Major John Andre, head of the British Secret Service, returning from visiting Benedict Arnold at West Point, where they had been plotting the surrender of West Point to the British.

The three militiamen were John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams. If they had not captured Andre that morning and the British had gained control of West Point and the Hudson River, the Revolutionary war could have turned out very differently.

The surnames of two of the militiamen interested me: Van Wart and Williams.  These surnames appear in my family tree, but in both cases, my ancestors with these surnames were loyalists.

I haven’t been able to connect my Williams line with David Williams yet, but my fifth great grandfather Jacob Van Wart was a second cousin to Isaac Van Wart.  Initially Jacob was an officer in the American army, but after about a year, he joined the British army.  In the claim that Jacob made to the British government after the war, he said that “before he came in he had harbored Torys [loyalists] and the rebels distressed him for it.”

For me, this story brought to life how families were divided by the war!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday's Child: Only Daughter of David Lowell

The following article caught my attention while I was searching for news about Alna, Maine, where an ancestor I was researching was born in the 1830's.

From the Eastern Argus, Tuesday, May 17, 1836:
Distressing.  The only daughter of Mr. David Lowell of Alna - a child about 12 years of age - was accidentally drowned in a pond near her father's house, on Sunday last.  She was seated on a small raft with her brother, which began to float from the shore, when they became frightened and the boy jumped off and succeeded in reaching the shore. The little girl also jumped off but not before she floated out to deep water, and was lost.  Her body had not been found on Tuesday.

I wondered if I could discover the girl's first name, or any other information related to her death.  When searching for "David Lowell", I found the following in the section labeled "DIED" in the Portland Advertiser, Tuesday, March 15 1836:
In Alna, Mrs. Pamelia, wife of Mr. David Lowell, aged 41.
So most likely the only daughter of David Lowell had lost her mother only two months prior to her own death.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Charles Pine: Adventure and Tragedy

In 1702, seven men settled in the area of Scarborough, Maine.  They came from the Massachusetts colony, in a sloop said to be owned by a young man named Charles Pine.  Charles was known as reckless and daring, and was a skilled hunter.

It required some daring to come and settle in Scarborough at that time, for it had been settled many years before, only to be abandoned in 1690 during King William's War.  The town of Falmouth (now Portland) was attacked and destroyed by the French and Indians, and the settlers in Scarborough and other surrounding areas fled.  The whole area had lain deserted for the next twelve years.

Even now as Charles Pine and others came to resettle the area, Queen Anne's War was beginning, and hostilities with the Indians continued.  The settlers lived in garrison houses for protection, and about a year after they arrived, the small group was beseiged by a large group of Indians.  From what I can understand from "The Settlement of Scarborough: Charles Pine, Hunter and Indian Fighter" by Augustus Moulton, the Indians got into an area protected from the gunfire of the settlers, and were digging to undermine the garrison when a violent rainstorm caused the Indians to abandon their effort.

There are other stories about Charles and his encounters with the Indians.  How much truth there is in the legends it is impossible to tell, but one story says he went alone one evening with two muskets to a deserted house about three miles from the garrison.  It was known that the Indians often met here, and when they arrived that night, Charles fired at them killing two.  The rest did not wait to find out what was happening, but quickly disappeared into the darkness.

Charles Pine became known as a hero for his part in settling Scarborough, ME, and the area where he originally settled became known as Pine Point.  It was not named for the many pine trees in this area as I had always assumed.

Charles Pine married a young woman named Grace, and they had 5 children, Charles Jr., George, Isaac, Mary and Grace.  Charles Jr. seems to have disappeared, or gone away and his family never heard from him again.  In his father's will, it says "I give unto my son Charles Pine, (if living) the sum of five shillings."  Again a legend grew out of this occurrence.  The story is that Charles Sr. came from a wealthy family in England, and that sums of money were sent to him each year, and that this explains why he became so prosperous.  It is also said that Charles Jr. went to England to accept the large inheritance that his father had rejected, but never returned.  

The lives of three of the other five children also came to early or tragic ends.  George died only a couple years after he married, and Isaac drowned when still a youth.  The daughter Mary came to a very tragic end.  She married William Deering in 1732.  In 1749, just a couple months after the birth of their last child, she was murdered by her husband who struck her on the head with an ax.  William was sentenced to be hanged, but escaped from the gaol in York and was not recaptured.  It is said that Charles Pine refused to help in bringing William to justice, saying, "It will not bring Mary back again, and will break up the family of children."

From a letter to the sheriff at York which shows William Deering was held at the old Gaol in York, ME, which is still standing today:
We command you therefore that on Thursday the third Day of
August next, between the Hours of one and five of the Clock in
the afternoon, you cause the said William Dearing to be carried
from our Goal in York aforesd (where he is now under your
custody) to the usual place of Execution in our said County, and
there be hanged up by the Neck until his body be
Boston the seventh Day of July in the twenty third year...1749
Boston Independent Advertiser, July 17, 1749

The gaol at York, ME.  The original structure was smaller, the stone part.  The wooden part was added later.

Charles Pine's fifth child, a daughter Grace named after her mother, is my 7th great grandmother.  She married John Runnels (or Reynolds, the name is spelled many different ways in different records).  They had eight children, including a daughter Hannah who married Daniel Merrill.  The Merrill line comes down to my 3rd great grandmother Betsey Merrill who married Lemuel Coolbroth.

Charles died in 1753, and is buried alone near Broadturn Road where it crosses the Nonesuch River.  There were two marker rocks but no inscriptions.  I wonder if the grave is still there, marked in any way, or if development has overtaken the spot.  Something I will have to look for soon.  His wife Grace was the first burial in the Dunstan Cemetery.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Chocolate Factory

I love chocolate, so I was interested to discover recently that a fifth great grand uncle named Gideon Foster was a chocolate manufacturer.

Gideon lived from 1748 to 1845 in Danvers, Massachusetts.  He actually had grist and bark mills as well as a chocolate mill.  He was a skilled mechanic, and planned and built all the machinery used in his mills.  He began manufacturing chocolate about 1780, and, therefore, was a competitor of Baker's Chocolate which was founded the same year.

The chocolate that he manufactured was not like the creamy, smooth chocolate bars we eat today.  It would have been much grittier.  At that time, people would have melted it, and made hot chocolate to drink - a much thicker drink tasting more intensely of chocolate than the hot chocolate we make from chocolate powder today.  Sounds good to me!  You can actually watch how chocolate was manufactured at that time (and sample it) at Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate Shop in Boston.

In 1806, Gideon Foster sold some chocolate to Luke Baldwin & Company in Boston that was found to be weighed incorrectly, the result of "the loss of a wire from a Scale Beam."

Boston Commercial Gazette, March 24, 1806

In March of 1822, a fire broke out late at night that destroyed some of Gideon Foster's mills.  This was not the first time fire had destroyed his mills.  Some sources says it was the second time, some say it was the third.  In any case, he was now about 72 years old, had lost a large quantity of chocolate as well as $6000 worth of property and equipment.  He was not insured, and decided not to rebuild again.  Some of his grist and bark mills were still in operation, and were advertised for sale about a year and a half later in November of 1823.  

Salem Gazette, March 24, 1822

A sad end for the chocolate factory!

Gideon Foster, chocolate manufacturer in green, brother to Acel Foster with line to my grandfather

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Did I Find the Horse Thief In My Family Tree?

My grandmother used to kid to me to be careful about searching for my ancestors because I might find a horse thief somewhere on the family tree.

Recently I found this paragraph in the Portland Advertiser, May 7, 1825.

Glidden!  Had I run across the dreaded horse thief in my family tree?  I continued searching and found a few articles with more details.  A man calling himself James Fitch was arrested in Palmyra, ME, for passing counterfeit quarters.  It was then discovered that the horse he was riding was stolen from Mr. Longfellow of Wiscasset.  He also said he had been hired on a pirate ship, not knowing what it was until it was out to sea.  After his trial, he made his escape by knocking over the constable.  He was described as wearing "black fulled cloth pantaloons and coat, black handerchief, white stockings and calf-skin shoes".

So was this man's name Glidden or was it really Fitch as he claimed?  All I could glean from the articles was that it was thought his real name might be Glidden because of some papers he had.  Then I found an article in the Thomaston Register, May 26, 1825, which describes the trial of a James Fitch from the town of Washington. ME, for breaking into a store, and for stealing the horse of Mr. Longfellow of Dresden (a town next to Wiscasset as originally reported).  At his trial, he feigned insanity, and evidence was produced that he had done so before afterwards boasting about the success of his scheme.  There is no more mention that his real name is Glidden in this article, and in the 1830 Census, a James Fitch is included in a long list of other men in Thomaston, ME, the location of the state prison from 1824 to 2002.  So it appears his name really was James Fitch, and I won't be adding him into my family tree.  

Can't say I'm disappointed!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Abandoned Settlement of Jerusalem in Vermont

When visiting Maple Hill in Marshfield, Vermont, my mother remembers her mother pointing down one of the dirt roads and saying that's where "old Jerusalem" was located.  What was "old Jerusalem", and why did it interest my grandmother?  Was it just the thought of abandoned farmhouses that intrigued her or did it have some significance in her family history?

While searching through old Vermont newspapers, I found an article entitled "Abandoned" Farms in Marshfield in the Argus And Patriot, November 27, 1899.  It told how a hill in Marshfield was struck by lightening many years ago, and the timber was burned off about half of the hill.  After the fire, it was called "The Lord's Hill".  Beginning around 1821 or 1822, some families came from New Hampshire and began settling a little south and east of the hill.  This settlement was called Jerusalem.  There were a list of settlers in the article, but two names grabbed my attention: John and Robert Spencer.

Robert Spencer, my fourth great grandfather, was born May 29, 1775, in Keene, New Hampshire to Robert and Hannah Spencer.  He had a brother named John who appears in Harris Gore, Vermont, in the 1850 Census.  Harris Gore was an area that was annexed to Plainfield in 1855.  So it seems that Robert and John Spencer came from New Hampshire to the settlement that was known as Jerusalem!  

Robert had two children by his first wife Hannah: Bishop and Hannah, my third great grandmother.  (Too many Hannah's!)  A story I have not yet been able to verify says that Robert's wife Hannah died while giving birth her daughter Hannah, and that the two children were adopted by their uncle John and his wife Persis.  Robert married a second time and had at least 4 children by his second wife Eunice.  Bishop and Hannah would have been about 20 and 17 when the brothers Robert and John Spencer settled in Jerusalem.  I have little other information about Robert except that he died in Marshfield in September 1, 1825.  So Robert actually died within a few years of settling in Jerusalem.

North Star, Sep 27, 1825

The settlement in Jerusalem did not last long.  After a few years, the rocky soil was not producing enough crops, and before 1850, less than 30 years after families began arriving, every family had left.  Over seventy years later when my grandmother was born on nearby Maple Hill, probably there was nothing left of Jerusalem except cellar holes lost in the woods.

Today if you drive down the dirt road (Laird Pond Road) that my grandmother pointed out, you will come to place where the road divides.  There the sign points out an even narrower dirt road: Jerusalem Road, dead end.  The road passes through shaded woods emerging from time to time in sunny meadows where butterflies are plentiful.  There are stone walls, lots of wildflowers and some beautiful pink roses - are they wild, too, or did someone plant them in front of their farmhouse long ago?  It's fun to imagine anyhow.  

You will only pass a couple houses, and if you meet a pickup truck coming the other way, one of you will have to backup until you reach a spot where you can pull over.  If you open your window and ask the driver of the pickup how much further the road goes, he will tell you that you had better turn around now while you can because further on it gets pretty bad and you might not be able to.  At least, that is my experience including the pickup truck jokester!

But think about what it must have been like in the early 1800's for the settlers in Jerusalem.  First, no road.  Then a path where the families walked, or drove a horse and wagon to town for supplies, muddy in the spring and snow-covered in the winter.  Probably there were many times the road was not passable.  


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jewett Williams, Civil War Veteran

This morning there was an article in the Portland Press Herald about a Civil War veteran named Jewett Williams who died in Oregon in 1922, and is being returned to Maine starting this week for burial with full military honors in Togus National Cemetery on Sept 17.  The name meant nothing to me until I read that he was born in Hodgdon, Maine.  My fourth great grandparents were William and Mary Ann Williams who came from New Brunswick, Canada and settled in Hodgdon, Maine.  Was Jewett Williams related?

Looking in my family tree database, I found a Jewett Williams, a grandson to William and Mary Ann Williams, and first cousin to my great great grandmother Bertha Howard Glidden.  But I knew next to nothing about him.  All I had entered was that Jared and Rosaline Williams had a child about 1843 whose name might be Jewett or Jannett.

Now I was reading the story of his life in the newspaper.  Jewett Williams served as a private in the 20th Maine Volunteer Regiment during the last six months of the Civil War.  This regiment was at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.  

After the war, Jewett Williams moved west.  More details of his life can be read in the newspaper articles, but sadly in April 1922 at age 78, he was admitted to Oregon State Hospital for the Insane with senile dementia.  He died a couple months later, was cremated and his ashes put on a shelf with other unclaimed cremated remains at the hospital.  There they lay forgotten for close to a century.  

Newspaper articles: