Up and down the Kennebec Valley: The story of Independence Day

by Mary Grow

Local historians make some references to Independence Day celebrations

According to Wikipedia, celebrating Independence Day on July 4 each year is most likely an error.

The writer of the on-line site’s article on this national holiday says that the Second Continental Congress, meeting in a closed session, approved Virginia representative Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring the United States independent of Great Britain on July 2, 1776.

Knowing the decision was coming, a five-man committee headed by Thomas Jefferson spent much of June drafting the formal declaration that would justify the dramatic action. After debating and amending the draft, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 – having approved the act of independence two days earlier.

Wikipedia further says that although some Congressmen later said they signed the declaration on July 4, “[m]ost historians” think the signing was really not until Aug. 2, 1776.

The article includes a quotation from a July 3, 1776, letter from John Adams, of Massachusetts, to his wife, Abigail. Adams wrote that “[t]he second day of July 1776…will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

Adams recommended the day “be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

And so it has been – two days late.

Wikipedia says July 4 celebrations began in 1777, in Philadelphia, where the observance included an “official dinner” for members of the Continental Congress, and in Bristol, Rhode Island. The Massachusetts General Court was the first state legislature to make July 4 a state holiday, in 1781, while Maine was part of Massachusetts.

Windsor historian Linwood Lowden mentioned the importance of the local Liberty Pole as part of Independence Day observances. Liberty Poles, he explained were put up after the Declaration of Independence as symbols of freedom. Many later became town flagpoles; Windsor’s, at South Windsor Corner (the current junction of routes 32 and 17), was still called a Liberty Pole in 1873.

The central Kennebec Valley towns covered in this history series have quite probably celebrated the holiday annually, or almost annually, since each was organized. As with other topics, local historians’ interest, and the amount of available information, vary from town to town.

James North’s history of Augusta is again a valuable resource. He described Independence Day celebrations repeatedly, beginning with 1804 (it was in 1797 that Augusta separated from Hallowell and, after less than four months as Harrington, became Augusta).

In 1804, North describes two celebrations, divided by politics. The Democrats, or Democratic-Republicans (the party of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others) gathered at the courthouse, where Rev. Thurston Whiting addressed them.

(Whiting is listed in on-line sources as a Congregationalist. He preached in Newcastle, Warren and before 1776 in Winthrop, where he “was invited to settle but declined,” according to a church history excerpted on line. He preached in Hallowell in 1775 [then described as “a young man”], and in 1791 is listed in Hallowell records as solemnizing the marriage of two members of prominent Augusta families, James Howard, Esquire, and Susanna Cony.)

The Federalists (the party of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and others) began celebrating at dawn with “a discharge of cannon,” North wrote. They organized a parade at the courthouse that went across the Kennebec and back to the meeting house where an aspiring young lawyer, Henry Weld Fuller, gave a speech. The day ended with a banquet at the Kennebec House (a local hotel that often hosted such events), during which participants “drank seventeen regular toasts highly seasoned with federalism.”

(Hon. Henry Weld Fuller [1784-Jan. 29, 1841], born in Connecticut, graduated from Dartmouth in 1801, studied law and came to Augusta in 1803. He married Ester or Esther Gould [1785-1866], on Dec. 21, 1805, or Jan. 7, 1806 [sources differ]. They had seven children, including Henry Weld Fuller II [1810-1889], who in turn fathered Henry Weld Fuller III [1839-1863], who died without issue. North wrote that the senior Fuller served in the Massachusetts legislature in 1812 and 1816 and in the Maine legislature in 1837. He was appointed Kennebec County attorney in 1826 and was a Judge of Probate from 1828 until he died. His grandson, Henry III’s brother Melville Weston Fuller, was Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.)

By the summer of 1807, the Democratic Republicans had elected one of their number, James Sullivan, as governor of Massachusetts, and the Maine party members “were in high spirits,” North wrote. On July 4, they heard an oration by Rev. Joshua Cushman, of Winslow, and partook of a dinner for 150 people in lavishly decorated courthouse.

Cushman’s speech was published; North wrote that “it attacked federalism with more vigor of denunciation than truthfulness or discretion.”

(Wikipedia says Rev. Joshua Cushman [April 11, 1761 – Jan. 27, 1834] was a Revolutionary War veteran who graduated from Harvard in 1787 and became a minister, serving Winslow’s Congregational Church for almost two decades. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives representing Massachusetts from 1819 to 1821, and with Maine statehood continued as a Maine member until 1825. He had just been elected to the Maine House of Representatives when he died. Wikipedia says “He was interred in a tomb on the State grounds in Augusta.”)

By July 4, 1810, the Augusta Light Infantry had been organized and paraded as part of the Federalist celebration, which North believed was held in Hallowell. He listed a parade including the Light Infantry as part of the 1810 and 1812 celebrations as well.

Because 1826 was the 50th anniversary of independence, Augusta officials organized an all-day celebration, North wrote. It began with a “discharge of cannon and ringing of bells” at dawn and continued with a parade, a ceremony, another parade, a dinner and fireworks set off on both sides of the Kennebec.

One of Augusta’s most prominent residents, Hon. Daniel Cony (Aug. 3, 1752 – Jan 21, 1842), presided at the banquet. Attendees included General John Chandler (Feb. 1, 1762 – Sept. 25, 1841), then in his second term as a United States Senator; Peleg Sprague (April 27, 1793 – Oct. 13, 1880), then a member of the United States House of Representatives and later a U.S. Senator; and “some officers of the army and navy who were engaged in the survey of the Kennebec.”

Also present, North wrote, was Hon. Nathan Weston (March 17, 1740 – Nov. 17, 1832), whom Cony introduced as the “venerable gentleman” who served in the Revolutionary army and fought at Saratoga with him. North wrote that Weston “briefly review[ed]…the events which preceded and led to the war of the revolution, noticing the severity of the struggle and the spirit which brought triumphant success, gave the following toast: ‘The spirit of ’76 ­ – alive and unspent after fifty years.'”

(North’s history includes two biographical sections on this Nathan Weston, whom he usually called Capt., and his son, also Nathan Weston, who was a judge and whom North usually called Hon. North did not write anything about Capt. Weston’s military service after the French and Indian wars. However, the younger Nathan Weston was born in 1782 and could not have fought in the Revolution.)

By July 4, 1829, Augusta had been designated Maine’s new state capital (succeeding Portland), and Independence Day was chosen as the day to lay the cornerstone of the State House, leading to “unusual ceremonies and festivity,” North wrote.

The celebration began, as usual, with bells and a 24-gun salute at dawn; continued with a parade featuring the Augusta Light Infantry, many speeches and a banquet; and was climaxed by fireworks set off on both sides of the Kennebec.

One more Independence Day celebration North thought worth describing was the 1832 observance. That year, he wrote, for the first time since 1811, the two political parties – by then the National Republicans and the Democrats – “each had separate processions, addresses and dinners.”

The Democrats got “part of” the Augusta Light Infantry and a band from Waterville for their parade and held their dinner in the State House. The Republicans’ parade incorporated “the Hallowell Artillery and Sidney Rifles, each with a band of music, and the Hallowell and Augusta band.” Their dinner was in the Augusta House.

The local Republican newspaper, identified by North as the Journal, claimed 2,000 people in the Republican parade. The Democratic Age estimated only 700 in the Democrats’ parade, but claimed 1,000 at the State House meal, versus only 400 or 500 at the Republican dinner.

North wrote that the Journal admitted the Democrats fed a larger crowd, but, North quoted, said snidely, “probably half of them dined at free cost.”

Windsor historian Lowden was another who described an occasional Fourth of July celebration, quoting from diaries kept in the 1870s and 1880s by residents Roger Reeves and Orren Choate.

In 1874, Reeves described “Bells, cannon guns, pistols, rockets, bomb shells, fire crackers” on Water Street, but “very little rum” and “no rows.” (Windsor no longer has a Water Street, and your writer failed to find an old map with street names.)

Two years later, Reeves’ family went to the Togus veterans’ home “to see the greased pig caught,” while Reeves himself intended “to celebrate in the hay field.” And in 1878 Reeves again worked all day, earning “a dollar and a pair of slippers” for whitewashing a barn. In the evening he went “up on the hill and played croquet by lamp light.”

Choate went to Weeks Mills for the 1885 Independence Day celebration (he was 17 that year, Lowden said), and wrote that it included races and a dance and he didn’t get home until midnight.

The next year, 1886, July 4 was a Sunday, so the celebration was on Monday. Choate got up at 2 a.m. to join relatives and friends for a trip to Augusta’s celebration, from which they got home at 3 the following morning. “We had a good time,” he wrote, without providing details.

Other local historians made occasional comments about Independence Day celebrations – for example, the Fairfield bicentennial history says that Fairfield’s Civil War monument was dedicated on July 4, 1868.

Your writer hopes that readers remember enjoyable, perhaps moving, ceremonies from years past and will have a safe and fun holiday this year.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Taking care of paupers

Bidding out was done at town meetings, where officials and voters discussed each needy person or family publicly by name. Residents bid for a poor person, asking a specific sum from the town for a year’s room, board and care, in the pauper’s home or the bidder’s home.

by Mary Grow

The earliest settlers in the Kennebec Valley, as elsewhere in New England, were for the most part able-bodied and self-supporting. But within a generation or two, a settlement would be likely to have residents who were unable to support themselves.

Some might be physically or mentally disabled. Older people might lose their ability to do manual labor and outlive their resources. Children might be left without a caring family.

A bad economy might send people into poverty. Different historians mention the near-destruction of export-dependent businesses (lumbering, for example) and the dramatic increase in prices of food and other necessities caused by the embargo during the War of 1812. Bad weather was another factor; farmers lost crops and income in 1816, the Year without a Summer.

Whatever the cause, if someone was a pauper and had no supportive relatives, caring for the poor was a town responsibility, as evidenced by the expression “going on the town” – becoming dependent on local taxpayers for the means of existence.

An on-line source says going on the town was a last resort and a humiliation. The writer gave three reasons: paupers lost the right to vote or to hold office; town officials might have authority to sell paupers’ property to fund their care; and townspeople looked down on those whom their taxes supported.

Maine towns had at least two ways of caring for their poor. One system was called “outdoor relief:” paupers were either supported financially on their own properties, or bid out to live with more prosperous neighbors.

Bidding out was done at town meetings, where officials and voters discussed each needy person or family publicly by name. Residents bid for a poor person, asking a specific sum from the town for a year’s room, board and care, in the pauper’s home or the bidder’s home.

An alternative was for voters to leave placement decisions to town officials. Officials for this purpose were the selectmen, whose titles included, and in many Maine towns still include, overseers of the poor.

The other option for a town was to buy a piece of property for a town poor house or poor farm, where paupers would be housed and cared for. “Farm” was almost always literal; the residents helped raise crops and tend livestock.

In her history of Sidney, Alice Hammond listed another method a person or family who owned property but was facing insolvency could use: the property could be deeded over to the town, on condition that the town would care for the donor(s) for life. Hammond mentioned real estate records showing Sidney had thus become owners of several farms that town officials later sold.

Town officials were careful not to spend their residents’ tax money on other towns’ paupers. Local histories occasionally mention lawsuits between towns to settle which is responsible for a person or family.

The following paragraphs will offer more specific information on how municipalities in the Central Kennebec Valley area took care of their poor before the present era of homeless shelters and homeless encampments.

This topic is one for which your writer’s self-imposed restriction to secondary sources available in books or on line (you’ll remember that this history series started early in the pandemic, when visiting town offices was discouraged) is limiting. Not all towns’ records are available on line, and some town historians wrote nothing about paupers. Others, however, provided enough information to intrigue your writer and, she hopes, her readers.

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At Augusta’s first town meeting, on April 3, 1797 (after Augusta separated from Hallowell in February 1797 and briefly became Harrington), Kingsbury reported that voters approved spending $1,250 for roads, $400 for roads and $300 for everything else, including supporting the poor.

The first poor house was approved at a March 11, 1805, meeting, according to Kingsbury and to James North’s Augusta history. Selectmen were not to spend more than $300. Voters at the annual meeting in 1806 elected George Reed or Read as its first superintendent.

Kingsbury described the location by 19th-century landmarks: north of Ballard’s corner (probably the current intersection of Bond and Water streets), and just south of the Curtis residence in 1805, and in 1892 marked by a “well on the east side of the road and an old sweet apple tree.”

By 1810, according to North, municipal spending had increased in the three categories Kingsbury listed in 1897: the appropriation for roads was $1,500, “payable in labor”; for schools, $1,000, and for everything else (both historians lump the poor “and other necessary charges”), another $1,500.

In 1833, North wrote, Augusta voters authorized selectmen to decide how to care for paupers. Neither he nor Kingsbury explained why there was evidently dissatisfaction with the poor house.

A special meeting in January 1834 made the authorization more specific: after the current contract with David Wilbur (the poor house superintendent?)) expired, town officials were to consider whether to buy a farm, contract or think up “some other mode.”

The five-man committee created to carry out this instruction reported at an April 21 meeting that while the legislature was in session they had talked with people from other parts of Maine and found unanimous support for “thePoor House system, both as regards economy and comfort and the prevention of pauperism.”

This committee recommended a second committee be appointed to look for “a suitable piece of land.” Charles Williams, from the first committee, and four new members of the second committee agreed with the first in advising that the farm be “near the village”; they recommended a third committee to buy a suitable property.

This third committee, which consisted of John Potter from the second committee and four more newcomers, reported to a Sept. 9 town meeting an agreement to buy Church Williams’ farm for $3,000. Their action was approved and yet another committee, chaired by Potter, appointed to build a house on the property.

The building went up by the end of 1834, North wrote. By 1870, he said, it had been “enlarged from time to time to the dimensions of the present commodious and convenient almshouse.”

A century after the building was finished, an on-line report on the Depression-era New Deal’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration’s work relief project describes repairs planned in 1934 and done in 1935. The writer said they were much needed: “Very few people realized the condition of this building and the unsanitary conditions and the inmates were living in.”

By then the building consisted of four floors over a large basement, “all of which were deteriorating rapidly.” Early steps were to reinforce a ceiling and put a partial new foundation “to keep the kitchen and range from falling into the basement.”

“The entire building was so infested with cockroaches and bedbugs that a special machine had to be hired along with an operator to exterminate these insects. All beds and bedding including blankets, mattresses, pillows and sheets were destroyed and replaced.”

Interior walls were replastered or repapered or painted; plumbing and heating systems were totally updated; the building was completely rewired; all the stairways were replaced, as were 20 doors and about 75 windows. A laundry was added and equipped, and a shed converted to a well-stocked store from which “the town truck delivers food daily to the city’s poor.”

The work crew consisted of 21 men. Total cost in labor, supplied by the ERA, was almost $5,400; the City of Augusta provided about $5,000 worth of materials. Work began Jan. 24 and was finished June 6, 1935.

The undated on-line site adds that the building had since been demolished and the Augusta public works department had moved onto the property.

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In Sidney, immediately north of Augusta on the west side of the Kennebec River, historian Hammond wrote, in the context of official town business in the 1790s, that “A problem right from the beginning was how to provide for the poor in town.”

She found an (undated) record of an early incident: the town constable “was ordered to serve notice on at least 25 families [presumably poor families] who had moved into town without first seeking permission.”

Town clerk’s records show that the constable carried out his orders, but, Hammond said, there is no proof the families were equally obedient; instead, some were still in Sidney years afterwards.

In addition to bidding out paupers, Hammond found Sidney town meeting voters repeatedly appointed a committee to buy a poor house or poor farm – and at the next meeting rejected the committee’s recommendation.

In 1867, she wrote, “the town actually purchased a working farm, hired a superintendent and moved paupers to the house.”

This poor farm was on 100 acres where Town Farm Road runs west off River Road (now West River Road) to Middle Road, in the north end of Sidney. The 1879 Kennebec County atlas shows the farm in the northwest corner of the three-way intersection; some of the land, then or later, was on the east side of West River Road (see below).

In 1869, Hammond wrote, voters directed selectmen to lay out and fence a cemetery on the town farm.

The 1877 town meeting warrant included an article Hammond quoted: “To see if town will vote to build suitable places at the poor house on the farm so as to be able to control the unruly poor.”

She also quoted the voters’ decision: “That it be left with the overseers to put them on bread and water if they see fit.” (Note the plural “overseers,” – by 1877, taxpayers were paying more than a single superintendent to staff the farm.)

This farm was a working farm, as Hammond’s information from what she called a typical inventory in the February 1895 annual report showed. The farm then had 28 hens; a dozen sheep; four cows and two yearlings; and two pigs. There were stockpiles of hay, straw, potatoes, turnips, oats, beans and beets.

The inventory further listed ham, pork, flour and butter; vinegar, pickles, molasses, spice and salt; and 80 gallons of cider and one pound each of tea and coffee.

Town officials and voters continued to debate whether the farm was the best arrangement, Hammond wrote. They agreed to lease it to different people, and eventually closed and sold it in 1919 to Mrs. Clara Wilshire for $3,000.

Hammond wrote that the sale did not include “the gravel bank on the east side of the River Road.” J. J. Pelotte later bought that parcel for $1,000. (Sidney’s 2003 comprehensive plan, found on line at the University of Maine Digital Commons site, lists the J. J. Pelotte gravel pit.)

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Windsor’s Colburn family

by Mary Grow

Exceptionally attentive readers with exceptionally good memories might remember that Francisco Colburn was one of the commanders of Windsor’s Marcellus Vining GAR Post in the 1880s (see the May 25 issue of The Town Line).

Marcellus is not a typical Maine name, to be sure – presumably his classically-educated parents named him after the Roman Marcus Claudius Marcellus (42 – 23 B.C.). But for some reason, your writer was struck by Francisco, and began wondering why a couple in Windsor, Maine, in the 1830s would choose that name for their son.

The question remains unanswered. The search for the answer revealed a lot of information – and misinformation – about a once-prominent Windsor family.

A Civil War source found on line says Francisco Colburn was born in 1839. On Oct. 20, 1861, when he was 22 years old, he enlisted as a corporal in Company C, 1st Maine Cavalry. He was promoted to sergeant and then first sergeant in 1863, and was mustered out of service on Nov. 25, 1864.

Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, added that he came back to Windsor and made his home on a piece of the family farm.

He married Sarah E. Chatman (1838 – 1922), daughter of Andrew Chatman, another Windsor resident. One on-line genealogy says their only child was a son they named Charles H.; born in 1865, he died in 1881, in his mid-teens.

However, Kingsbury listed four sons, all, from the wording, alive in 1892: “Francisco, George A., Horace and Raymond.” And another on-line family history says Francisco and Sarah had five sons: Francisco D., Jr. (1862 -1901); Charles (1865 – 1881); George Arthur (1867-1936); Horace (1869-1957); and Raymond (1873-1940).

Kingsbury wrote that the first Francisco served as Windsor town treasurer for 1882 and 1883. He might have been a town selectman for two years beginning in 1886: Kingsbury listed “Francisco” as a last name, with a blank for the first name, but your writer suspects a printing error.

Francisco died in 1928, in his 89th year. He, Sarah and Charles are buried in Windsor’s Oak Hill Cemetery, their graves marked by one of the five tall monuments there. A plaque lists the three names, with dates; to the south, a flat stone marks Charles’ grave, and two more flat stones to the north are labeled “Mother” and “Father.” There are no other marked graves in the plot.

In early June 2023 a new American flag stood beside the monument.

* * * * * *

Francisco’s parents were Horace Colburn (Sept. 11, 1812 – April 15, 1885) and Almena Wilson Colburn (July 1813 – Feb. 11, 1903). They and other Colburns, including some of Francisco’s brothers and sisters, are buried in Windsor’s Resthaven cemetery.

Linwood Lowden’s history of Windsor includes a reproduction of a photograph of Francisco’s mother. Mrs. Almena Wilson Colburn is standing by a large spinning wheel in the dooryard of a white-painted house with a portico across the front. She wears a high-necked, long-sleeved, floor-length dress, dark-colored with small white flowers (?). Her dark hair, parted in the middle, is drawn tightly behind her head.

Sources differ wildly on the names and lives of Francisco’s siblings; in the following paragraphs your writer combines several contradictory lists.

One says he had two older sisters for the first 10 years of his life. Ginevra was born in 1836 and died Aug. 13, 1849, when she was 12 years old. Delphena was 13 when she died Sept. 10, 1849. There might have been an epidemic that fall; Caleb W., born in 1845, died Oct. 3, 1849.

By then Horace and Almena had another daughter, Minerva, born Jan. 20, 1848, in Winslow (according to an obituary found on line). Minerva was a bookish child who soon began teaching, a career she continued until she married Dr. James A. Pierce on April 7, 1875.

The Pierces moved to Stockton Springs, where Minerva, though a semi-invalid for many years, was a well-loved community member. They had one son, James A. Pierce, Jr.

When Minerva Colburn Pierce died Dec. 26, 1900, at 88, the obituary says she was survived by her husband and son; her 88-year-old mother; one sister; and three brothers. Your writer has identified her mother and three brothers, Francisco, Joseph and Frank, but cannot name a surviving sister.

According to an on-line genealogy, Joseph (April 1843 – April 12, 1919) was born in Windsor. Kingsbury said he lived on part of the family farm and taught school in the winter from the time he was 16.

The genealogy said he married Eliza A. Wyman (Aug. 1843 – May 18, 1919) on Sept. 15, 1864, in Waterville. They had at least two children, Frederic (Oct. 1865 – ?) and Grace Almenia (Aug. 4, 1871 – Dec. 28, 1908). Joseph and Eliza are buried in Norton, Massachusetts.

Frank was Francisco’s youngest brother, born in 1854 and died in 1927. He too lived on the family farm and was a teacher from his teens.

Frank’s gravestone in Resthaven Cemetery says he married Lizzie E. Donnell (1861-1942). C. Arlene Barton Gilbert’s chapter on education in Lowden’s history lists Frank Colburn and Lizzie Donnell among 1881-82 Windsor teachers – Lizzie’s fifth, sixth and seventh terms and Frank’s eighth. Lizzie Colburn was still a Windsor teacher in 1927; by then the school year was 30 weeks, and teachers earned from $15 to $18 weekly.

Another source lists Sanford Colburn (? – Mar. 6, 1878) as one of Francisco’s five siblings (and omits Minerva). Your writer has found no other information on Sanford Colburn.

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Horace Colburn is mentioned frequently by both Lowden and Kingsbury.

On Oct. 21, 1839 (the year Francisco was born), Lowden said, Horace Colburn, of Pittston, bought a farm on the west side of current Route 32 (“the main road leading to China Village”), about a mile north of the Windsor Corner post office. Carlton Colburn is listed as a co-purchaser, and elsewhere Lowden added Joseph; he did not explain their relationships.

The ad describing the farm (from the May 9, 1835, issue of The China Orb, published in China Village) said it was about 150 acres, 60 acres under tillage and the rest “woodland of an excellent quality.” The property included “a young orchard”; an almost new sawmill (built by a prior owner named Nathan Tollman in or before 1832); three shingled barns, two 36-feet-square and the third 30-feet-square; other outbuildings; and a “good well of water” close to the farmhouse.

The brook that powered the mill, called Colburn Brook in Lowden’s history, was either the one now called Dearborn Brook or the tributary (unnamed on on-line maps) that joins it from the west near Meadow Brook Lane.

The 1856 and 1879 Windsor maps Lowden reproduced both show H. Colburn’s sawmill. Kingsbury wrote that in 1892 Horace Colburn’s sons were running it; Lowden believed it operated until at least 1900.

The nearly-new farmhouse was a story and half on “an excellent cellar.” Five of the six rooms on the ground floor had fireplaces.

The seller was John B. Swanton, Jr., of Bath, and the ad named local representatives Ebenezer Shaw, Esquire, in China Village, and Ebenezer Meigs, Esquire, in South China. Why it took four years to sell the farm Lowden does not guess.

Horace’s sons Francisco, Joseph and Frank all settled on the property, changing the area’s semi-official name from Linn Hill to Colburn Hill. For some years they ran the shingle mill and farmed, and Joseph and Frank taught school.

According to Kingsbury, Horace Colburn was Windsor’s town treasurer in 1848, 1850, and 1856; served as a selectman for six years, beginning in 1853; and was “twice elected county commissioner, which office he held at his death.”

Gilbert listed Horace as a member of Windsor’s 1866-67 Superintending School Committee, with Orren Tyler and C. A. Pierce. The three reported that there were 478 students on April 1, 1866. They evaluated each of the teachers, mostly local, mostly female, whom they supervised during 24 terms in 13 schoolhouses.

They then berated Windsor voters. Teachers would have done better, they wrote, with proper schoolhouses:

“Three-fifths of our school houses are not fit places for schools. They would be more appropriate for pig-pens or hen-houses, we might have said stables, but conscience forbids, for many of the parents are sending their own children to those miserable huts called school houses which they would not even think of keeping their horses or oxen in during the winter season without repairing.”

Their suggested remedy was to consolidate districts so taxpayers could build fewer, better schools, arguing that a good school a mile and a half away was better than “a nuisance” close to home.

In 1876, voters elected Horace Colburn moderator of an Aug. 12 special town meeting called to replace the tax collector, after an investigation that generated a report Lowden could not find in the town records.

Horace’s younger sons also held town offices, according to Kingsbury. He lists Joseph as supervisor of schools from 1871 to 1886, town clerk in 1883 and 1887 and a selectman for two years beginning in 1891; and Frank as town treasurer in 1884, apparently as his brother Francisco’s successor, and supervisor of schools in 1888 and 1889.

Lowden found other odds and ends of Colburn family history. For example, after Windsor Grange (Patrons of Husbandry No. 284) was organized June 2, 1886, the second Grange Master was Frank Colburn, in 1888. In 1895, there were seven Colburns among the membership: Francis (Francisco?) and his wife; Frank and his wife; J. (Joseph?), Eliza and Fred (Joseph’s wife and son?).

Two of Windsor’s early cemeteries

Linwood Lowden’s Windsor history has a section on town cemeteries, including the Resthaven and Oak Hill cemeteries in which 19th-century Colburns are buried. Henry Kingsbury listed both graveyards in his Kennebec County history.

Resthaven Cemetery, much the larger of the two, is on the east side of Route 32 just south of the Maxcy’s Mill Road intersection. Oak Hill Cemetery is less than half a mile north, on the west side of Route 32 just south of the Reed Road intersection.

said Resthaven Cemetery’s first burial was that of Persis Wheeler, in 1810; Kingsbury dated the graveyard to 1808. Lowden wrote that Persis’ husband, Samuel Wheeler, Sr., “apparently” owned the lot then, though shortly thereafter it was Joseph Linscott who deeded it to what was then the Town of Malta.

Lowden found a call for a July 1, 1811, special town meeting at which voters were asked to buy some “ground for a burying ground,” though he found no related records. He also found a May 6, 1814, record of a decision to fence the cemetery; and he quoted Linscott’s 1816 description: half an acre “in length ten rods on the said mill road [Maxcy’s Mill?] and in width eight rods situated where the graves now are.” (A rod equals 16.5 feet.)

Linscott wrote in the 1816 document that the land was intended as a “burying yard” for the Town of Malta and that he had received “the value thereof from said town.”

Lowden said this cemetery was at different times named the Burying Ground on the Ridge, the Mill Road Cemetery and the Sand Hill Cemetery. He found it was re-fenced in 1856, and in 1859, the by-then-Windsor “selectmen divided this yard into lots.”

The Colburn/Coburn/Oak Hill Cemetery, Lowden wrote, was “established as early as 1822 if not earlier.” The first burials, beginning in 1822, were members of the David Given family. Kingsbury called it “the Chapman burying ground.”

Lowden contradicted Kingsbury’s claim that Oak Hill Cemetery was owned by those who bought lots there. He listed town expenditures: a pre-1837 fence; 1847 fence repairs; in 1853, approval of a half-acre expansion, at a cost of $25.00; in 1857, voters’ rejection of a request to whitewash the fence; and in 1858, selection of a three-man committee to “lot out” the yard.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: GAR and Togus

by Mary Grow

The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, was responsible for more than organizing the local Posts and Memorial Day observances described in previous articles in this series.

Additional information on this Civil War veterans’ organization, from various sources, says it assisted veterans in many ways, including advocating for legislation and policies, providing financial support to needy members and helping them stay in touch with each other.

The organization also “supported charitable causes such as the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Eastern Branch, and the Maine Military and Naval Children’s Home in Bath,” an on-line source says.

In the spring 2004 issue of Prologue magazine, Trevor K. Plante, then an archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration, wrote an article entitled The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

The National Home was actually more than a dozen homes, established by federal legislation in March 1865. The board appointed to carry out the legislation (originally 100 members, reduced to 12 in March 1866) began looking for sites. The first one they approved was an abandoned resort called Togus Springs, in Chelsea, Maine, about four miles southeast of Augusta on the east bank of the Kennebec River.

According to on-line sources (including the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA), “Togus” is a shortened version of an Indian name, Worromontogus, or “mineral water.” The mineral spring, Henry Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history, had been known to white settlers since 1810; it was called the Gunpowder Spring because it reeked of sulfur, and it was supposed to heal “malignant humors.”

In 1859, Horace Beals, described as “a wealthy granite merchant from Rockland, Maine,” bought 1,900 acres in Chelsea, including the spring. He planned to develop a health resort for the rich, a Maine institution that would rival Saratoga Springs, in New York.

In pursuit of his dream, Beals spent more than $250,00 to build “a 134-room hotel, a race course, bowling alleys, bath house, and other recreational facilities,” with a farmhouse and stables.

Kingsbury wrote that the resort opened in June 1859. The Civil War left it struggling; it closed in 1863. Beals went bankrupt and died soon afterwards, and his spa was locally called “Beals’ Folly.”

Beals’ widow sold the property to the Board of Managers for the planned veterans’ homes for $50,000. The managers liked the site for numerous reasons: because of the mineral spring, presumed to be a health benefit; because of the rural setting and isolation from cities, qualities that were supposed to be soothing and to keep veterans away from urban temptations; because the buildings were almost ready for immediate use; and, the VA website says bluntly, “because it was a bargain.”

An on-line source describes Togus and its fellows as “a place for disabled veterans to live if they could not care for themselves or their pensions did not provide enough financial support.”

James North, in his Augusta history, wrote that at Togus, honorably discharged veterans with war-caused disabilities “were fed and clothed, and given religious and secular instruction to fit them for the callings in life to which they may be adapted.”

After some remodeling, the first veteran moved into Togus on Nov. 10, 1866. Wikipedia identifies him as James P. Nickerson, no rank given, of Company A, 19th Massachusetts Volunteers.

There were about 200 ex-soldiers at the facility by the next summer. Another site says most of the men came from three states, Maine, Massachusetts and New York; over half were “foreign born, including a large Irish community.”

To accommodate increasing need, Kingsbury wrote that in 1867 officials added a brick hospital – probably the 50-by-100-foot brick building that North described – and had plans for a chapel and other additions.

The VA site does not mention the January 1868 fire that North described, which destroyed most of the main buildings. (Your writer cited North’s description in the Nov. 10, 2022, issue of The Town Line.) The extensive new construction in the next few years featured buildings specifically adapted to a veterans’ home, and made of bricks (manufactured on the grounds), so they would be more fire-resistant.

North described in detail the four brick buildings that were started in the spring of 1886. They were each 50-by-150-foot, with a basement, two main floors and a mansard roof that provided space for a third floor; they were arranged in a square around a central courtyard.

The first building faced eastward. It had storage space in the basement; a large schoolroom that could double as a chapel, plus a smaller schoolroom and teachers’ accommodations, on the ground floor; and an open second story “to be devoted to such purposes as may be required.”

Two more buildings extended westward from each end of the first building. North wrote that they housed “accommodations for the officers and dormitories for the soldiers, the dining-room, kitchen, post office, telegraph office and reading-room.”

The building that closed the west side of the quadrangle had an ell extending west. Its basement housed “a bath room, laundry, store rooms, bakery, boiler room and wash rooms.”

The first floor was another dining room, with the kitchen in the ell. The hospital occupied the main part of the second floor, with a dispensary and nurses’ quarters.

Other new late-1860s buildings listed on line include “an amusement hall, barn, workshop, and the Governor’s House.”

The Governor’s House was built in 1869. The two-story-and-a-half story, 22-room brick house is still standing; it has been on the National Register of Historic Places since May 30, 1974. It is described as historically significant as “the sole remaining building of the country’s first Veteran’s [sic] Home.”

North wrote that as he completed his history in 1870, a two-story brick amusement hall and another building that would house a 10-horsepower engine and the machine shop, shoe shop and tailor’s shop that it would serve were under construction.

Another major, and very expensive, project, he wrote, was building a reservoir that would cover an acre and would “furnish an unfailing supply of pure water, which is to be taken from Greely pond.”

By 1870, too, the campus was steam-powered throughout, North wrote: “Steam for warming and raising hot and cold water to every part of the buildings, and for cooking and laundry purposes, is generated by two boilers capable of driving a sixty horse-power steam engine.”

Wikipedia’s list of new buildings in or about 1872 reads: “a bakery, a butcher shop, a blacksmith shop, a brickyard, a boot and shoe factory, a carpentry shop, a fire station, a harness shop, a library, a sawmill, a soap works, a store, and an opera house theatre.”

The store, North said, sold desirable items to the residents, with proceeds going into their amusement fund.

In 1872, Wikipedia says, the name was changed: the institution became the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. On Aug. 13, 1873, according to the same source, President Ulysses Grant came to Togus “to review the men who had served with him during the Civil War.”

Wikipedia says in 1878, 933 men lived at Togus, mostly Civil War veterans and a few from the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Kingsbury added there were 1,400 residents in the spring of 1883 and 2,000 by 1892; by the 1880s, there were 20 additional buildings. The peak population was almost 2,800 in 1904.

The former soldiers lived under military discipline, North wrote. The VA site adds that some of the housing was like barracks, and the men wore “modified army uniforms” (or surplus uniforms, according to Wikipedia).

The men paid for their room and board with their federal pensions, Wikipedia says. Those who were able worked in the shops or the farm. Another source says they were paid “at a rate fixed by the managers,” getting half their pay at intervals and the other half when they left (if they left).

The farm provided much of the residents’ and staff’s food. Writing in 1870, North said “farming operations…are already quite extensive.” There had been 85 head of cattle over the previous winter, he said, “some of which are choice Devon stock.”

Wikipedia says the three dairy Holsteins brought from the Netherlands in 1871 started “the first registered herd of the breed in Maine.”

Togus was connected to the surrounding towns on July 23, 1890, by the narrow-gauge Kennebec Central Railroad that ran to the Kennebec at either Randolph or Gardiner (sources differ). On June 15, 1901, the Augusta and Togus Electric Railway began service.

After that, the VA site says, the veterans’ home “became a popular excursion spot for Sunday picnics. There were band concerts, a zoo, a hotel, and a theater which brought shows directly from Broadway.”

Wikipedia and other sources add baseball games. Wikipedia said the zoo let area residents see “antelope, bear, buffalo, deer, elk, chimpanzees, and pheasants.”

* * * * * *

The Togus grounds include the Togus National Cemetery, which covers 31.2 acres. According to the VA and other sources, this cemetery has two sections, called the West Cemetery and the East Cemetery. The latter opened in 1936 and closed in 1961.

The beginning of the West Cemetery was laid out in 1867, on a hilltop on the west side of the grounds. A VA website says Major Nathan Cutler, of Augusta (see box), was running the institution then and chose the site “because he preferred that attractive hilltop.”

Beginning on April 20, 1867, Cutler oversaw the reburial in the new cemetery of six veterans who had died in the first few months. The website says: “Major Cutler felt the factors of color, rank and religion were of no importance. They were buried side by side since they had been soldiers together.”

In 1889, the then head of the Eastern Branch, General Luther Stephenson, had the cemetery’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument built. It is a stone obelisk, 26 feet high, on a stepped foundation with four dedicatory plaques; the granite was quarried on the Togus grounds.

Residents did the work. One website names two specific contributors: a Pennsylvania marble worker named William Spaulding, who did the design, and a Massachusetts stone-cutter named Jeremiah O’Brien.

By the summer of 2010, the obelisk had so deteriorated that the VA’s National Cemetery Association had to rebuild it. In the process, workers found an 1889 time capsule. An on-line photo of the contents shows a slender bottle; two newspapers, from Augusta and Boston; and a small pipe.

When the restored obelisk was rededicated in September 2010, a new time capsule was added.

Togus had its own GAR post

Togus had its own GAR Post, Cutler No. 48, honoring Major Nathan Cutler, known on the web as “the man who saved the ‘Cutler Bible.'” Here is the story, as told in a 2007 blog by a historian and author named Dale Cox.

In the Civil War battle of Marianna, Florida (Sept. 27, 1864), Cutler was 20 years old; he had abandoned his classes at Harvard and joined the 2nd Maine Cavalry, led at Marianna by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth and after he was wounded by Colonel L. L. Zulavsky.

Cutler led the first Union charge; his troops were driven back by stubborn Confederate soldiers, including some holed up in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and nearby houses. Zulavsky ordered the buildings burned to dislodge the enemy.

Cutler – or someone else; Cox found the record unclear – refused to burn a church. When the order was repeated, Cutler supposedly “dashed into the burning church and saved the Bible, bringing it through the flames to safety.”

Soon afterwards, “two young members of the Marianna home guard” wounded Cutler badly enough so he was left behind and taken prisoner when the Union forces pulled out the next day.

He survived, however, because Cox recounted later interviews in which Cutler agreed someone, not necessarily himself, had argued for saving the church, and did not claim to have rescued its Bible, perhaps through modesty.

However, in a Sept. 19, 2014, article in the Tallahassee Democrat, in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the Union raid into Marianna, senior writer Mark Hinson repeated the tale and said:

“It’s a romantic story but it never happened. Cutler was badly wounded before the kerosene torches ever touched St. Luke’s. The Bible was saved by someone else because it was returned to the sanctuary of the new St. Luke’s, where it remains on display to this day.”

Main sources:

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Memorial Day – Part 3

Grand Army of the Republic hat insignia worn by the Horse soldiers.

by Mary Grow

GAR posts Fairfield, Windsor, China, Albion & Sidney

Continuing with central Kennebec Valley GAR Posts in the order of their formation, the next after Billings Post #88, in Clinton, was Fairfield’s E. P. Pratt Post #90 (in Somerset County, therefore not on the Kennebec County list in Henry Kingsbury’s history). According to Barbara Gunvaldsen, of the Fairfield Historical Society, this Post was organized Oct. 18, 1883.

Records at the FHS History House (the 1894 Cotton-Smith House) include a summary biography of Elbridge P. Pratt, in whose honor the Post is named. He was born in 1841, son of a farmer, Jesse Pratt, and his wife Hannah (Hubbard) Pratt.

On July 23, 1862, Pratt enlisted in Fairfield; he was mustered in July 25 (Wikipedia says Aug. 25) in Bath as a private in the 19th Maine Infantry, for three years. On July 27, his unit went to Washington, where it was stationed until September 1862. In October, the 19th was assigned to the Army of the Potomac.

Battles in which the 19th fought included Fredericksburg, Virginia (Dec. 11-15, 1862); Chancellorsville, Virginia (April 30 – May 6, 1863); and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1-3, 1863).

Pratt was killed on July 2, 1863, one of 232 men – more than half the regiment’s total – the 19th lost at Gettysburg. He is buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery.

E. P. Pratt GAR Post was still active in early 1918. A paragraph in the Tuesday, Jan. 10, 1918, issue of the Fairfield Journal announced the Wednesday, Jan. 16 (either day or date must be a misprint) installation of officers of the E. P. Pratt Relief Corps (the GAR ladies’ auxiliary) at the GAR Hall. Post members and wives, Corps members’ husbands and Sons of Veterans and their wives were invited.

* * * * * *

South China’s James Parnell (or Parnel) Jones Post #106 was organized April 23, 1884, with 25 charter members, Kingsbury said. At first members met in the AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workmen) hall; in 1885, according to the China bicentennial history, they built their own hall (demolished in 1964) at the crossroads where South China’s Memorial Park now stands.

Kingsbury said the GAR building was “complete in itself, containing a large hall, offices, rooms for Sons of Veterans and a Woman’s Relief Corps, and suitable banquet hall.”

Major James Parnell Jones (May 21, 1835 – July 12, 1864) is locally famous as “the Fighting Quaker.” Born in China, son of Quaker missionaries Eli and Sybil Jones, he was educated at the State University of Michigan and Haverford College, Pennsylvania.

On Sept. 15, 1857, he married Rebecca Maria Runnels (1836 – April 14, 1899).

When the Civil War began in April 1861, Jones was principal of China Academy, in China Village. He and Rebecca had lost their first son, James Lecky, in 1859, at the age of six months; their second, James A. “Jamie,” had been born Feb. 16, 1861. Nonetheless, Jones promptly helped raise and became captain of the unit that became Company B, 7th Maine Infantry.

In September 1862 he was slightly wounded. In 1863, he was promoted to major. In 1864 he was wounded again, at the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7); and on July 12, 1864, he was killed at Crystal Springs, Virginia, outside Washington D. C.

Sometime in 1863 Jones had home leave, because his and Rebecca’s daughter, Alice, was born Aug. 6, 1864. She lived five days, dying on Aug. 11; and on Aug. 14, three-year-old Jamie died.

Parents and children are buried in China’s Dudley Cemetery, on Dirigo Road, with James P. Jones’ mother, Sybil. His father Eli’s grave is in the nearby Dirigo Friends Cemetery.

Rebecca remarried on Sept. 29, 1867, to Rev. Moses W. Newbert.

An undated obituary from the Lincoln County News says Newbert was born in Waldoboro and died May 6, 1898; the accompanying picture of his tombstone shows he was aged “64 yrs. 3 mos. 14 dys.” The obituary writer praised his “natural ability” as a preacher and said, “His success in the ministry was remarkable.”

The obituary says he began preaching about 1856 “under the direction of the Methodist Conference.” Starting in Palermo, he moved to North Vassalboro, China and Southport; to Wisconsin for two years; and back east to serve in several Maine towns, including Waldoboro.

A period of ill health led to a change to an unspecified 15-year “business career…in China and Camden.” He then returned to the ministry, with posts in “Cushing, Caribou, Hodgdon and Linneus, Sprague’s Mills.” Ill health led to retirement to a farm in China for his last two years, the obituary says.

Newbert’s first wife was Helen Augusta Washburn (Oct. 6, 1829 – May 11, 1866), daughter of Zebah and Susan Washburn of China; they were married March 6, 1860. Newbert is buried in Zebah Washburn’s family plot in the China Village Cemetery.

The newspaper obituary says his second wife was “Mrs. Maria R. Jones, of China, whose first husband was Maj. Jones, who was killed during the war of the Rebellion.” A Methodist yearbook found in line adds that in his last years Newbert was “tenderly cared for by his faithful and devoted wife.”

* * * * * *

Grand Army of the Republic badge.

In her research into the history of Albion, Ruby Crosby Wiggin found that Albion’s first Memorial Day observance was in 1885. She wrote that Civil War veterans from Albion and adjoining China organized Grand Army Amos J. Billings Post #112 on May 17, 1884, in China Village.

Kingsbury gave June 17 as the date and said there were 20 original members.

The two towns jointly financed the 1885 Memorial Day celebration, with Albion’s March 1885 town meeting raising $25 for the holiday observance and for decorating solders’ grave.

Kingsbury listed commanders of this Post as Llewellyn Libbey, John Motley, B. P. Tilton, J. W. Brown, Henry C. Rice, Robert C. Brann, A. B. Fletcher and John Motley.

Amos Judson Billings was born Jan. 20, 1833, to Benjamin Allen Billings (1799-1870) and Sarah (Tenney) Billings (1801-1882). On May 1, 1853, in Waldo, he married a woman named Bacon, perhaps Elizabeth A. Bacon (the on-line census record is unsure).

Billings rose to the rank of lieutenant in Company G, 24th Maine Infantry. Census and town records agree that he died of disease in Arkansas on July 28, 1863. His grave is in Albion’s Libby Hill Cemetery.

* * * * * *

Sidney’s Joseph W. Lincoln Post #113 honors Lieutenant Joseph Warren Lincoln, who was born in 1835 and died at Falmouth Virginia, April 8, 1863. His gravestone in the Lincoln Cemetery on Quaker Road says he served in Company F of the 20th Maine; a GAR note on the Find a Grave website, dated 2016 (after the GAR ceased to exist), says Company I, 20th Maine.

In 1857, according to Find a Grave, Lincoln married Laura Ann Whitman McPeak (Jan. 4, 1837 – Sept. 20, 1869). Born in Douglas, Massachusetts, she died in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Sidney Post first met May 24, 1884, according to Kingsbury. Starting with 11 charter members, it had 26 members in 1892.

Meetings were held in the Grange Hall, Kingsbury wrote; GAR members had “contributed considerable labor” to help build it. In her 1992 history of Sidney, Alice Hammond said meetings of both the Post and the Women’s Relief Corps were “in the Town Hall for many years.”

Kingsbury’s list of Post commanders included, in order, Nathan A. Benson, A. M. Sawtell, Thomas S. Benson, John B. Sawtell, Simon C. Hastings, James H. Bean, Silas N. Waite and Gorham K. Hastings. Hammond said Bean was in charge for many years, and his wife, Vileda Bean, was the longest-serving president of the women’s auxiliary. Kingsbury listed Vileda A. Bean among charter members when the Women’s Relief Corps was organized July 29, 1890.

* * * * * *

Windsor’s Marcellus Vining GAR Post honors Lieutenant Marcellus Vining (May 2, 1842 – May 19, 1864).

Kingsbury wrote that Marcellus Vining was the grandson of Jonathan Vining, who came from Alna to Windsor about 1805, and son of Daniel Vining (April 27, 1810 – Feb. 10, 1890). A farmer, Daniel had 12 or 13 children by two wives; Marcellus was his oldest son by his first wife, Sarah Esterbrook (or Esterbrooks) of Oldtown.

Marcellus Vining became a private in the 7th Maine Infantry on Jan. 25, 1862. Kingsbury wrote that the 19-year-old’s “ability and courage soon pointed him out as one especially fitted to a more important place among his comrades.”

Vining received two promotions before his two-year enlistment ended. When he reenlisted Jan. 4, 1864, it was as a sergeant in Company F of the 7th Maine.

He was promoted twice more that spring, to second lieutenant, Company A, on March 9 and to first lieutenant, Company A, on April 21. Wounded at the May 12, 1864, Battle of Spottsylvania, Virginia, he died May 19 in Fredericksburg, before, Kingsbury said, receiving the federal government’s notice that he had been promoted to captain. He is buried in Windsor Neck Cemetery.

Kingsbury wrote that as Vining awaited death, he wrote his father a letter in which he said that “it was preferable for him to die in the defense of his country’s flag than live to see it disgraced.”

Vining GAR Post #107 was organized June 2, 1884, Kingsbury said. Before then, Lowden wrote, residents celebrated Decoration Day at the National Soldiers Home in Togus.

Kingsbury listed the Post commanders, to 1892, as H. A. N. Dutton, Francisco Colburn, George E. Stickney, G. L. Marson, Cyrus S. Noyes and Luther B. Jennings.

Lowden said Windsor’s Post members met every Saturday night in the GAR Hall, the second floor of the town house. The Hall accumulated memorabilia; Lowden wrote that in 1886, “a Mr. Bangs presented a picture of Marcellus Vining,” and Kingsbury added that the Vining family donated Marcellus Vining’s army sword, a life-size portrait and a flag.

Lowden believed Vining Post continued “well into the twentieth century.” Windsor voters helped fund the organization, usually at $15 a year, he wrote. In 1929, however, “$30.00 was appropriated for G.A.R. Memorial and paid to the Sons of Veterans,” the successor organization to the GAR.

After local Memorial Day observances began, they typically included a speech, Lowden said. Windsor’s first was in 1887, and “must have been appreciated since a $13.00 honorarium was paid to the speaker who to this day has remained anonymous.” Lowden did find names of several ministers who delivered memorial addresses in the next decade.

Gustavus B. (G.B.) Chadwick

One of Windsor’s Memorial Day speakers, according to Linwood Lowden’s history, was G. B. Chadwick, in 1892. Though not listed as a minister, he almost certainly was: Rev. Gustavus B. Chadwick, a member of a prominent South China family. In the China bicentennial history (where he is consistently referred to simply as G. B. Chadwick), he is mentioned as a school committee member, head of the Masonic Lodge, in South China, and in 1872 among the people who bought the Chadwick Cemetery, where he is buried.

Information from the on-line Find a Grave site says Chadwick was born July 24, 1832, in China. On Aug. 27, 1864, he enlisted in the navy and served as a Landsman on the USS Rhode Island until honorably discharged June 3, 1865. He was a member of China’s Amos J. Billings GAR Post.

Gravestones in China’s Chadwick Hill cemetery list Rev. G. B. Chadwick (did he so dislike the name Gustavus?) and dates; his wife Clara M. (1851-1934) (probably born Clara Erskine); their son Wallace W. Chadwick (1892-1930) and Wallace’s wife Martha Francis (Gardner) Chadwick (1891-1947).

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Holidays: Memorial Day

by Mary Grow

GAR posts Augusta, North Vassalboro and Clinton

Waterville’s W. S Heath GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Post #14, described last week, was the second founded of the eight in the part of Kennebec County covered in this series, according to Henry Kingsbury’s county history. It was the third of 19 in the whole county, Kingsbury wrote.

Kingsbury’s list begins with a post in Gardiner, followed by Augusta’s Seth Williams Post #13, organized July 25, 1872. Then came Waterville’s, organized Dec. 29, 1874.

Kingsbury then listed:

  • Richard W. Mullen Post #33, North Vassalboro, no date given;
  • Billings Post #88, Clinton, organized Oct. 9, 1883;
  • James P. Jones Post #106, South China, organized April 23, 1884;
  • Vining Post #107, Windsor, organized June 2, 1884;
  • Amos J. Billings Post #112, China Village, chartered June 17, 1884;
  • Joseph W. Lincoln Post #113, Sidney, mustered May 24, 1884.

* * * * * *

Brevet Major General
Seth Williams

Brevet Major General Seth Williams (March 22, 1822 – March 23, 1866), for whom the Augusta GAR Post was named, was an Augusta native, Kingsbury wrote. James North, in his Augusta history, said his parents were Daniel and Mary (Sawtelle) Williams; Mary was from Norridgewock. Daniel and his brother Reuel were prominent in Augusta business and politics.

Seth Williams graduated from West Point July 1, 1842, and served in the United States First Artillery (Kingsbury; North says it was the Second Artillery), either entering as a brevet second lieutenant (North) or attaining the rank in 1844 (Kingsbury).

(The word “brevet” means someone promoted to a higher rank, especially as a reward for outstanding service, without the higher pay that normally accompanied the new rank.)

An on-line article by Charles Francis added that among Williams’ “minor” posts in his first three years in the military was Hancock Barracks, in Houlton, Maine.

Williams was promoted to first lieutenant in 1847, during the Mexican War (April 25, 1846 – Feb. 2, 1848). North wrote that he was in battle at Palo Alto (May 8, 1846) and Resaca de la Palma (May 9, 1846), and during the latter “his gallant bearing attracted the notice of a distinguished general officer, who invited him to become a member of his military family.”

(The officer was General Robert Patterson [Jan. 12, 1792 – Aug. 7, 1881], an Irish-born Pennsylvanian, veteran of the War of 1812. He was wounded at the April 18, 1847, Battle of Sierra Gordo, not seriously enough to keep him from becoming a successful businessman and serving in the Civil War.)

When Williams visited Augusta in July 1847, North said, Colonel James L. Child hosted a party at the Arsenal and townspeople gave Williams an inscribed sword.

Kingsbury wrote that Williams was brevetted captain the day of the Battle of Sierra Gordo in recognition of his “gallant and meritorious conduct.”

After the Mexican War ended, Williams served in other minor posts until he became adjutant at West Point from September 1850 to August 1853. Francis wrote that he “was held in the highest esteem, and was remembered with affection” by the cadets he supervised.

Next he became a captain and assistant adjutant general in Washington, where he remained until the Civil War began in April 1861.

Williams served in both staff and battlefield positions. Kingsbury’s account of his service includes membership on General George McLellan’s staff in the early days; becoming a major in August 1861; and later that year becoming “adjutant general of the Army of the Potomac” and “brigadier general of volunteers.”

Although these were challenging jobs, North and Kingsbury wrote that Williams’ performance was approved by the various commanders he supervised. Francis wrote that Williams was made a brevet colonel for his gallantry in the July 1, 1863, Battle of Gettysburg.

In November 1864 (North) or on Jan. 12, 1865 (Kingsbury), failing health led to his reassignment as Inspector General on General Ulysses Grant’s staff. In this position he inspected parts of the army in Virginia before taking part in the final Civil War campaign and the negotiations for General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, in April 1865.

Williams remained in the army after the war ended, serving on General George Meade’s staff. Kingsbury said his final “special service” was as a member of a January 1866 commission that investigated charges brought by the government of Prussia about “the enlistment of some of its subjects into our army.”

Sources differ on how Williams became a brevet general. Kingsbury and North imply he was promoted before his death in March 1866; they wrote he became a major general as of August 1864 (North) or effective March 13, 1865 (Kingsbury). Wikipedia says President Andrew Johnson nominated him to the two ranks on April 10 and July 17, 1866, with both appointments retroactive to March 13, 1865.

Kingsbury praised Williams as a man who did his duty even if he thereby hurt others, but was in private “one of the most lovable of men.” Kingsbury’s adjectives for him included courteous, tactful, beloved, admired and respected. North concurred. He called Williams “modest” and “unassuming,” with “sterling qualities of mind and heart that won the respect and confidence of acquaintances and associates.”

When General Grant heard that Williams had died in Boston, Massachusetts, he telegraphed sympathy to Williams’ father and asked that the body be buried at West Point. The family chose Forest Grove Cemetery, in Augusta.

Williams’ body came to Augusta “by special train,” North wrote. There was a service at St. Mark’s Church and another at the graveside, but at the family’s request, the only military ceremony was a 15-gun salute at the Arsenal.

Afterwards, North wrote, Williams’ father commissioned a memorial stained-glass window in St. Mark’s Church.

Francis mentioned one more memorial to Seth Williams: Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, named on April 13, 1899, honored the Augusta soldier. The fort was active through the two world wars and beyond; it was closed on June 30, 1962, Wikipedia says, and since July 1979 has been Fort Williams Park.

* * * * * *

Richard W. Mullen Post #33, in Vassalboro, honors the man identified in Alma Pierce Robbins’ Vassalboro bicentennial history as one of the first officers in the 14th Maine regiment when it assembled in Augusta in 1861.

From its position on Kingsbury’s list, the Post must date from mid-January, 1881. Kingsbury said it had 18 charter members and by 1892, 42 members.

Kingsbury located Post #33 in North Vassalboro, but he was probably in error. The Vassalboro Historical Society owns a black and silver DAR ribbon with the Post’s name and number that plainly says “East Vassalboro, ME.”

Writing in 1971, Robbins said, “All older citizens will recall that the Richard W. Mullen Chapter, G.A.R., was active in Vassalboro for many years until they turned their records over to the American Legion Post #126 (1942).”

Over those years, she reported, the town donated to the Women’s (or Woman’s) Relief Corps (the GAR’s ladies’ auxiliary) to decorate veterans’ graves and hold Memorial Day services. The Legion and Auxiliary took over those responsibilities.

Capt. Richard Wright Mullen, son of Richard Mullen, was born April 19, 1831, in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and died May 14, 1875, in New Orleans, Louisiana, according to the Find a Grave website.

The Maine Adjutant General’s Report for the year ending Dec. 31, 1861, lists Richard W. Mullen, of Vassalboro, as the captain of company B, 14th regiment. When the report was compiled, the 14th was in camp at Augusta.

(The regimental commander was Colonel Frank S. Nickerson. Col. Nickerson, born in Swanville, Maine, became a brigadier general and survived the war, dying in Boston in 1917.)

Wikipedia says the 14th Maine was mustered into active service Dec. 31, 1861, and mustered out Jan. 3, 1865. Attached to General Benjamin Butler’s New Orleans expedition, the men took ship from Boston Feb. 6, 1862; they were in Mississippi from early March to mid-May, got to Louisiana early in July and fought in the Aug. 5, 1862, Battle of Baton Rouge.

Mullen is buried in the North Vassalboro cemetery. On his gravestone above his name is the Latin phrase “In hoc signo vinces,” commonly translated as “In this sign, thou shalt conquer” and a cross.

A long inscription says he was “severely wounded” at the Battle of Baton Rouge. Despite only partially recovering, he was “called into public service” and when he died was collector of customs in Franklin, Louisiana, a town west of New Orleans.

(State records say 86 members of the 14th Maine were killed or died from their wounds, and 332 died of disease.)

* * * * * *

Billings Post #88, organized in Clinton on Oct. 9, 1883, had 19 charter members and 23 members in 1892, Kingsbury wrote. Meetings were held in Centennial Hall.

Capt. Charles W. Billings

The Post honors Clinton native Captain Charles Wheeler Billings (Dec. 13, 1824 – July 15, 1863), son of Abijah (or Abaijah) Munroe Billings (1797-September 1881) and Rhonda (or Rhoda) (Warner) Billings (1798-1836).

An on-line article by Paul Russinoff, a Marylander who collects Civil War photographs, says that Abijah Billings ran a wool carding mill and was postmaster in Clinton. He sent his son to a private school; when Charles was 22, he bought a half-interest in his father’s mill.

In 1849, Charles Billings married Ellen Libby Hunter (July 1, 1833 – 1924), daughter of a prominent local family whose patriarch was in the lumber business. They had three daughters, Isadore Margaret (Billings) Timberlake (1850 – 1897), Alice Warner Billings (1856-1860) and Elizabeth W. “Lizzie” Billings (1860 – Dec. 7, 1863).

By the outbreak of the Civil War, Billings was an established businessman and active in town affairs, holding office as a selectman and as town clerk. He did not volunteer for military service in the excitement of 1861, but did on Aug. 9, 1862.

Russinoff quotes from a letter to his father suggesting his motivation: he saw the war as a choice between protecting liberty and “let[ting] the sword of despotism and ignorance sweep over our fair country.”

In the fall of 1862, as a second lieutenant in Company A of the 20th Maine, Billings started keeping a diary, which Russinoff said ended in April 1863. Also that month, he returned to Clinton for the last time on a 15-day-furlough.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 7, 1863, Russinoff wrote, he had been transferred to Company C and promoted to captain.

Billings was wounded in the left knee at the Battle of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863. His wife got word, and with his younger brother, John Patten Billings, came to Gettysburg; they arrived on July 15, a few hours after Billings died in the Fifth Corps field hospital at Gettysburg.

The 20th Maine monument at Gettysburg lists him as the highest-ranking officer in the regiment to die as a result of the battle.

Ellen had his body brought back to Clinton. She did not remarry; Russinoff found that she later lived with daughter Isadore, in Lancaster, New Hampshire.

Where she was between Isadore’s death and her own, Russinoff did not say. Ellen is buried with Charles, their daughters and his parents in Clinton’s Riverview Cemetery.

On the Men of Maine Killed in the Victory of Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(A poem by Herman Melville, 1866)

Afar they fell. It was the zone
Of fig and orange, cane and lime
(A land how all unlike their own,
With the cold pine-grove overgrown),
But still their Country’s clime.
And there in youth they died for her –
The Volunteers,
For her went up their dying prayers:
So vast the Nation, yet so strong the tie.
What doubt shall come, then, to deter
The Republic’s earnest faith and courage high.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971)

Websites, miscellaneous

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: May holidays

Nearly 50 years after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, Civil War veterans marched down Main Street, in Waterville, on May 30, 1913, in the annual Memorial Day parade. The decades since the war had thinned the ranks of these members of the GAR, who fought in the war.

by Mary Grow

The month of May hosts two well-observed national holidays in the 21st-century United States: the second Sunday is Mother’s Day, and the last Monday is Memorial Day.

There will be no story about Mother’s Day; it’s too new (but see the box). Nor will your writer trouble you with details about the many other May holidays listed on line.

May 11, for example, is National Eat What You Want Day, National Twilight Zone Day, National Foam Rolling Day and National Technology Day. The seven May 12 observances include National Limerick Day, National Nutty Fudge Day and National Odometer Day.

Later in the month, those so inclined can celebrate National Frog Jumping Day and National Fruit Cocktail Day (May 13); National Sea Monkey Day (May 16); Pack Rat Day and World Baking Day (May 17); International Red Sneakers Day and World Bee Day (May 20); World Turtle Day and National Asparagus Day (May 23); National Paper Airplane Day and World Lindy Hop Day (May 26); National Paperclip Day (May 29); and on May 31, National Flip-Flop Day, World No Tobacco Day and World Otter Day – and those are from only two lists.

Memorial Day, celebrated this year on Monday, May 29, had its origins almost 150 years ago. The day was first called Decoration Day, and it honored soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Local groups in former Confederate states and in Pennsylvania started putting flowers on soldiers’ graves each year soon after the war ended in April 1865, leading to debate about who started what became national recognition of deceased veterans.

Wikipedia says as of last year, the National Cemetery Administration (part of the Department of Veterans Affairs) gave credit to Mary Ann (Mrs. Charles J.) Williams, of Columbus, Georgia. She was president of a group who, in March 1866, began a newspaper campaign to persuade people to decorate both Confederate and Union soldiers’ graves in the South. Their chosen day was April 26.

The national holiday began May 30, 1868, when, Wikipedia says, General John A. Logan called for decorating Union soldiers’ graves. After the 20th-century world wars, the holiday expanded to honor all veterans.

Congress officially named it Memorial Day in 1967, and in June 1968 passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, effective Jan. 1, 1971. This law moved Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day to Mondays and created Columbus Day as another Monday holiday.

(In 1978, Veterans’ Day was moved back to Nov. 11, the date World War I ended. Labor Day was a Monday celebration before 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was added in 1986.)

General Logan was in 1868 commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union veterans founded in 1866 in Springfield, Illinois. The GAR held its first national meeting on Nov. 20 that year in Indianapolis, Indiana. It dissolved in 1956, after its last member died.

Several local town historians included information about Memorial Day. Linwood Lowden, commenting on his research in the history of Windsor, said that Decoration Day, Independence Day and Christmas were “the holidays that seemed to be of the greatest importance.”

Lowden wrote that the GAR’s Department of Maine, established in 1867 or 1868, was “instrumental” in persuading the Maine legislature to make Memorial Day a legal holiday in 1874.

Two on-line sources say that in 1885 Maine had 130 GAR posts with 8,235 members and in 1888 150 posts with 9,345 members. It was in June 1885 that Portland hosted the 19th National Encampment, attended by 20,000 Civil War veterans including, Lowden wrote, Abram Choate, of Windsor.

From the 1860s into the 20th century, most municipal Memorial Day celebrations were led by local GAR posts.

* * * * * *

Gen. Isaac Bangs

Waterville’s W. S. Heath Post #14 was chartered Dec. 29, 1874, with 26 members, according to charter member General Isaac Sparrow Bangs’ chapter in the Waterville centennial history.

The Post’s name honors Lieutenant Colonel William Solyman Heath, Colby 1855. Born March 13, 1834, in Belfast, he married Maria E. Moor (born 1838) in Waterville in 1856, soon after he graduated from Colby.

The couple had three children, Ethel Maud Heath (born Sept. 1, 1857, in Minneapolis, according to an on-line genealogy, and died in 1898 in the state of Washington); Sidney Moor Heath (born Aug. 27, 1859, in Waterville, died April 3, 1919, in Hoquiam, Washington); and William Francis Heath (born Oct. 13, 1861, in Waterville, and died there April 26, 1863).

When the Civil War began, Heath raised and captained a company of Waterville volunteers, who joined the 3rd Maine Volunteers. He became a colonel in that regiment and later a lieutenant-colonel in the 5th Maine.

Heath was killed in the June 27, 1862, Battle of Gaines (or Gaine’s or Gaines’) Mill in Hanover County, Virginia, where, Bangs wrote in 1902, “for forty years he has slept under the grass and flowers in an unknown grave.”

Another charter member of W. S. Heath GAR post was William Heath’s younger brother, Francis “Frank” Edward Heath, Colby 1858. Joining the 3rd Maine with his brother, he later became lieutenant-colonel, then colonel and finally brevet brigadier-general in the 19th Maine, Bangs wrote. Francis Heath survived the war and died in Waterville on Dec. 20, 1897.

The Friday, June 3, 1881, issue of the Waterville Mail (available on-line through Colby’s digital commons, which your writer has previously praised as a valuable resource) had several articles about Memorial Day observances on Sunday, May 29, and Monday, May 30, 1881.

Sunday evening, the newspaper reported, Baptist church pastor Rev. W. H. Spencer addressed Waterville’s W. S. Heath GAR Post, the Waterville Light Infantry and interested residents. Vassalboro’s R. W. Mullen Post members were invited, but because of rain only a few men came.

Post and infantry members “marched to the tap of the drum” to the church, where they sat “giving good attention to a soldier speaking to soldiers.” The paper explained how Rev. Spencer compared military soldiers to soldiers of Christ.

The next day, Memorial Day, about 50 Post members, again escorted by the infantry regiment, took donated wreaths and set out for Pine Grove Cemetery, by way of Monument Park where they put a long wreath on the monument.

Monday was rainy, too, and before the veterans got to the cemetery a “copious shower” made it “advisable to double-quick for shelter in the hearse house.” After waiting out the heaviest rain, they went into the cemetery, heard a prayer by Congregational pastor Rev. E. N. Smith, distributed the wreaths and marched back to their (unspecified) assembly point.

Monday evening, the Baptist Church ladies put on a program that raised $104 for the Post, to be used “to aid needy soldiers and their families.” The Mail gave the program, which included war songs, reminiscences and a group of young women performing the “Waiters Drill,” which the anonymous writer said was “so prettily done, and so gratifying to the large audience that long continued applause compelled its repetition.”

After the program, those present enjoyed cake and ice cream and conversation in the vestry, decorated with flags and pictures and with war memorabilia on display. The writer added a bit of editorializing:

“The ranks of the veteran soldiers are thinning every year, and they will not long remain with those for whose benefit they fought and suffered. Do them good while they are alive and can appreciate your grateful service, and do not content yourselves with building monuments to their memory, or helping to decorate their graves after they are dead.”

The origin of Mother’s Day

Wikipedia dates holidays recognizing mothers and motherhood to the ancient Greeks and Romans and early Christians. In the United States, Wikipedia credits West Virginian Anna Maria Jarvis (May 1, 1864 – Nov. 24, 1948) with starting Mother’s Day observances.

Jarvis’s mother, Anna Maria (Reeves) Jarvis (Sept. 30, 1832 – May 9, 1905), founded groups called Mothers’ Day Work Clubs. Before the Civil War, club members focused on public health issues, helping families improve sanitation, reduce infant mortality and control disease, including, Wikipedia says, creating milk inspection programs “long before there were state requirements.”

Anna Jarvis

During the Civil War, the western part of Virginia where the Jarvises lived was so split between North and South that part of it became the separate, pro-Union state of West Virginia. The older Anna Jarvis insisted that her clubs be neutral; members helped provide food, clothing and medical care to Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

Wikipedia describes the 1868 Mothers Friendship Day she organized in Pruntytown, West Virginia, attended by veterans from both armies and their families, with bands playing Dixie and The Star-Spangled Banner and everyone singing Auld Lang Syne at the end.

The younger Anna Jarvis remembered that her mother often wished there were a national holiday honoring mothers. Another proponent was Julia Ward Howe (May 27, 1819 – Oct. 17, 1910, best known as the author of The Battle Hymn of Republic), who in 1870 combined two causes when she called on all mothers to cooperate to promote peaceful resolution of disputes.

On the morning of May 10, 1908, Jarvis organized, and Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virginia, hosted, the first public Mother’s Day celebration in the United States. Jarvis also organized a larger celebration – 15,000 attendees, Wikipedia says – that afternoon in Philadelphia.

Her idea spread, and she lobbied to make the day a nationally-recognized holiday. Congress considered it in 1908, Wikipedia says, and rejected it amid jokes about Mother-in-Laws’ Day. Within three years, however, a day honoring mothers was celebrated nation-wide and was officially a holiday in some states, including West Virginia.

Wikipedia says: “In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrase ‘Second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, Founder’ and created the Mother’s Day International Association…. She specifically noted that ‘Mother’s’ should ‘be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.'”

On May 11, 1913, members of the United States House of Representatives wore white carnations in honor of mothers, complying with a May 10 resolution sponsored by Representative James Heflin (D-Alabama; later a United States Senator). In 1914, Heflin followed up with legislation making the second Sunday in May officially Mother’s Day.

Heflin’s bill directed that the United States flag be flown on Mother’s Day “as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” The House approved promptly; Senator (former Representative) Morris Sheppard (D-Texas) led Senate supporters.

President Woodrow Wilson received the bill on May 8, 1914, and signed it that day.

Carnations are not in the law, but remain associated with the holiday, along with cards, flowers and candy – a commercialization that Anna Jarvis deplored.

Two buildings related to the founding of Mother’s Day are on the National Register of Historic Places: the Anna Jarvis House in Webster, West Virginia, where Jarvis was born; and the International Mother’s Day Shrine, at 11 East Main Street, Grafton, West Virginia.

The Shrine, according to its website, was incorporated in 1962 in the 1873 Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church as “an international shrine to all mothers and as a memorial to Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother’s Day.”

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta families – Part 4

A drawing of a “great canoe”.

by Mary Grow

Henry Sewall, part one

The fourth early Augusta settler, prominent citizen and diarist your writer promised to introduce was Henry Sewall (Oct. 24, 1752 – Sept. 4, 1845).

His diary poses a puzzle. James North, whose history of Augusta was published in 1870, relied heavily on it from the 1780s through the late 1790s, and mentioned it in footnotes to events in 1820 and 1828, but not thereafter. Charles Nash, in his Augusta history published in 1904, wrote that from the end of Sept. 1783 to 1830, “the MS of Capt. Sewall’s Diary is missing.” Nash excerpted entries for 1783 and from 1830 to Jan. 31, 1843.

Diary entries are brief. Sewall recorded the weather; church-related events; and local deaths and funerals, including many in his own family. He often mentioned a town meeting or beginning of a legislative session, but said little about their outcomes.

Thanks mostly to the diary, Sewall’s life is well enough documented to provide material for two articles in this series. They will be followed by one more story on central Kennebec Valley towns planned for March 16; then your writer intends to take a break at least until the end of April.

* * * * * *

Some sources call Henry Sewall Captain Sewall, others call him General Sewall, and he is entitled to both ranks.

He was born in York, Maine, son of Henry and Abigail (Titcomb) Sewall. His father was a farmer and a mason, and he followed both occupations.

At the beginning of the Revolution, North wrote, Sewall enlisted in a Falmouth company that in May 1775 joined a Massachusetts regiment. He was promoted to captain as the regiment fought in New England and New York before British General John Burgoyne’s army surrendered at Saratoga on Oct. 17, 1777.

In November, North said, the Massachusetts soldiers joined the Continental Army in Pennsylvania. Sewall spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge; he “served the remainder of the war in New Jersey and the highlands of New York.”

North and an on-line article by a Sewall descendant agree that Sewall became a major, maybe as of May 19, 1779. His military service earned him a government pension; by the 1830s, he was recording in his diary semi-annual payments of $240.

The on-line source says Sewall was an “Original Member of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati from 1783 until 1845,” and in 1845 (the year of his death) its vice-president. In 1836, he described in his diary the week-long trip he and his wife took to the society’s annual meeting in Boston. They went again in July 1838, and this time, at his wife’s urging, had their portraits painted by “Mr. Badger” (Thomas Badger, 1792-1868).

(The Society of the Cincinnati, which one source calls “the nation’s oldest patriotic organization,” was founded by Revolutionary officers and is named for Roman general Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus [c. 519 – c. 430 BC]. It is now a nonprofit educational association headquartered in Washington, D.C.

(The society’s website says members are male descendants of Revolutionary War officers [former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill became a member in 1947], but anyone sharing an interest in promoting “the understanding and appreciation of the American Revolution and its legacy” can be an associate member.)

Your writer found two stories from Sewall’s later life harking back to his army days.

North wrote that when the Marquis de Lafayette (the French general famous for his help to the Americans during the Revolution) visited Portland in 1825, Sewall, who had known him well, was in the crowd honoring him, but held back. Lafayette “saw and recognized him and perceiving his design exclaimed, ‘Ah! Henry Sewall you can’t cheat me.’ They embraced, and the aged soldiers wept.”

In the spring of 1839, U. S. General Winfield Scott passed through Augusta on his way to and from Aroostook County, where border troubles with Canada had flared up. Scott, born in 1786, had never soldiered with Sewall. Nonetheless, on March 27, as Scott returned south, Sewall wrote one sentence in his diary: “General Scott called on me.”

Sewall’s generalship was as Major-General in the Maine militia, Eighth Division, in which he served from 1790 to 1820. The division included men from Lincoln County and later Kennebec (established Feb. 20, 1799) and Somerset (established March 1, 1809) counties.

North wrote that Sewall moved from York to Hallowell in September 1783. Except for a brief unsuccessful attempt to start a business in New York in 1788-89, the central Kennebec Valley was his home for the rest of his life.

Other Sewall men who came from southern Maine to the Kennebec were Henry’s brother Jotham, who had a “plantation” in Chesterville but was often in Hallowell; David and his brother Moses; and Thomas, Henry’s cousin and close friend (born Sept. 24, 1750, came to Hallowell in 1775, died May 4, 1833).

There were other Sewalls on the coast in and around Bath and Georgetown. Sewall’s diary entries from 1783 mentioned uncles named as D., Dr., Dummer and Joseph; a sister married to a man named Parsons; and a cousin named Samuel. North added a David Sewall, who visited Hallowell at least once.

A short series of diary entries from late August 1783 describes typical family connections. After dinner with Uncle Joseph at Arrowsic on Aug. 27, Sewall wrote that he and Jotham, whom he met at Dr. Sewall’s, canoed upriver to Hallowell and spent a night at cousin Thomas’s.

On Aug. 29, “Helped my brother build T. Sewall’s chimneys.”

And on Sept. 1, “Helped my brother lay out a cellar at Hallowell….”

Besides working as a mason, Sewall, with a partner named William Burley, ran a store on the east side of the Kennebec for about five years, starting in late 1783.

In the spring of 1784, Henry and Thomas Sewall and Elias Craig (previously mentioned in several 2022 articles about Augusta) built what North called a “great canoe.” Using Sewall’s diary as his source, North described some of its uses; for instance, in early July Henry, Jotham and their cousin Tabitha Sewall (see below) from Georgetown went downriver to Bath on a Saturday and to Georgetown for church on Sunday.

Henry’s horse was at Georgetown, so when the wind was against them Monday he rode back upriver, leaving Jotham to bring the “canoe” – and presumably Tabitha – back later.

Sewall’s first involvement in official town business seems to have been in 1785, when Hallowell voters chose him, newly elected town clerk Daniel Cony and Joseph North to petition the Massachusetts Court of Sessions for a new road.

On Feb. 9, 1786, at Georgetown, he married his first wife, his cousin Tabitha (Thomas’s younger sister, born on or before Nov. 25, 1753, died June 19, 1810). North said they had two sons and five daughters. Other sources give varying numbers.

Henry Sewall’s son Charles (Nov. 13, 1790 – June 28, 1872) had a son named Henry, born Dec. 3, 1822, who was a “lieutenant and adjutant” in the 19th Maine Regiment in the Civil War. This second Kennebec Valley Henry Sewall named his sons Harry (born July 4, 1848) and Charles (born July 5, 1861).

After Tabitha’s death, North wrote that on June 3, 1811, in Salem, Massachusetts, Sewall married another cousin named Rachel Crosby (Dec. 12, 1754 – June 15, 1832). On Sept. 9, 1833, he was married for the third time, to Elizabeth Lowell (Oct. 6, 1777 – March 13, 1861), in Augusta, with Rev. Benjamin Tappan performing the ceremony.

* * * * * *

In 1789, North wrote, Sewall came back from his venture in New York City on Sept. 12, and the next month went to Boston “to see President Washington,” who was there on Oct. 24, and was in a parade of ex-army officers.

In Boston he crossed paths again with David Sewall, newly-appointed “judge of the District Court of the United States for the Maine District.” David Sewall chose Henry Sewall as the court clerk, a post he held until 1818.

District Court was held in Portland, and North wrote that until 1794, Sewall’s trip on horseback from Hallowell took almost two days, via Bath. By June 1793 enough new roads had been built so that he could go by way of Monmouth; if he started early enough to have breakfast in Monmouth (about 20 miles on his way), he could be in Portland fairly early the next morning, North wrote.

By June 1800, he had a third choice, through Brunswick, still requiring an overnight stop.

He became Hallowell town clerk in 1789, North wrote, was re-elected at Harrington’s first town meeting in April 1797 and continued in Augusta, for a total of 32 years. Nash, in his chapters on Augusta in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, listed his terms as 1797-1801, 1806-1815 and 1818-1829.

When Hallowell’s first court house was built in 1790, North wrote that Sewall contributed $10 “in labor and materials,” and “built the chimneys,” with his brother Jotham helping intermittently. He also helped build Hallowell’s meeting house, started in 1782 and used for both civic and religious assemblies.

Sewall was briefly a Hallowell selectman; North mentioned him in the position in June 1791. After Augusta became a town, Nash wrote that he was elected selectman in 1798 and served two years.

According to North, Sewall was not heavily involved in discussions of Maine statehood, nor was he active in the debates leading to the division of Augusta from Hallowell in February 1797.

When Kennebec County was separated from Lincoln County in February 1799, Sewall was its first register of deeds, North wrote. He held the post until April 1816.

Augusta residents did not learn of George Washington’s Dec. 14, 1799, death until Jan. 1, 1800, North wrote (quoting Sewall’s diary). A Feb. 6 town meeting appointed a committee, including Sewall, to plan a suitable observance on Feb. 22. More than 1,000 area residents attended.

As a militia officer, Sewall was on alert much of the time in the early 1800s. During the settlers’ insurrection that culminated in open violence in 1808, he (and Daniel Cony, as mentioned last week) were part of the volunteer patrol in Augusta. On Jan. 19, county sheriff Arthur Lithgow asked for 400 militiamen to resist the “insurgents,” and Sewall held them ready until Massachusetts Governor James Sullivan overruled Lithgow on Feb. 2.

When the jail in Augusta caught fire on March 16, 1808 (see the Oct. 27, 2022, issue of The Town Line), Sewall was again asked for help. Court of Common Pleas judges Joseph North and Daniel Cony requested soldiers to protect the court house and to prevent jail inmates from escaping from the nearby private house to which they had been moved.

Sewall “ordered the Augusta Light Infantry upon duty; and they continued under arms during the night.”

The arrest and incarceration in Augusta of a band of settlers who had killed a surveyor named Paul Chadwick led to a more serious episode during the first full week of October 1809.

As North told the story, an armed group of 70 or so men planned a jailbreak; they reached the Augusta bridge around midnight Oct. 3, were spotted, and by 1 a.m. Oct. 4 the new sheriff, John Chandler, again had Sewall calling out the militia. This time neighboring towns’ units were included, cannon guarded the bridge and a gun from the Hallowell artillery company “was planted so as to command the entrance to the jail.”

North wrote that when Sewall reported what he had done to Massachusetts Governor Christopher Gore, the governor’s Oct. 14 ordered commended his “promptitude and alacrity.” After a week on full alert, precautions were gradually relaxed.

The Sept. 11, 1814, report of an impending British landing at Wiscasset again led Sewall to dispatch troops. North wrote that he got notice while in church, immediately ordered two regiments plus the Hallowell artillery company to the coast and on Sept. 15 went himself and took charge.

As described previously (see the Feb. 17, 2022, issue of The Town Line), there was no landing.

After Augusta became the state capital, Sewall commented in his diary for 1830 on the progress on the new State House: the pillars “began to be raised” Oct. 21 and were “all up” on the 25th. On Dec. 11 he wrote that the outside of the building was done “except the dome.”

On Oct. 24, 1832, Sewall wrote: “My birthday – 80 years old! My friends and my companion gone! [His second wife, Rachel, had died June 15, after being unwell since the beginning of the year.] Can I expect to stay?” Then, as he often did on his birthday, he quoted poetry:

“Still has my life new wonders seen, repeated every year;
The scanty days that yet remain, I trust them to thy care.”

Henry Sewall died Sept. 4, 1845, and is buried in Augusta’s Mount Vernon Cemetery, with his third wife and four descendants.

Next week: Henry Sewall’s religion

Main sources:

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta families – Part 3

by Mary Grow

Daniel Cony

Daniel Cony

Daniel Cony (Aug. 3, 1752 – Jan. 21, 1842) has been mentioned in previous articles in this series in various contexts, including as the founder of Augusta’s Cony Female Academy and the man after whom Cony High School is named. He was profiled in the Sept. 2, 2021, issue of The Town Line.

Cony was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, south of Boston, the third generation of a family that had lived there since his grandfather moved from Boston in 1728.

Kennebec Historical Society archivist Emily Schroeder called him “a Renaissance man” and “a man of many hats.” She, and most other historians, referred to him as a doctor; but, emphasizing his many roles, one source identified him as a jurist, and Charles Nash, in his chapter on Augusta in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, called him Judge Cony.

Cony learned medicine in Marlboro, Massachusetts, about 30 miles west of Boston, from a doctor named Samuel Curtis. By April 1775, when the first battle of the American Revolution was fought, one source said he was practicing medicine in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, farther west; James North, in his Augusta history, put him in Tewksbury, north of Boston.

By North’s account, Cony was “a lieutenant in a company of minute men.” Awakened at 2 a.m. by a messenger who shouted, “American blood has been spilled and the country must rally,” he joined his company at the pre-arranged meeting place, where they “paraded, received the blessing of the parish minister” and were on the way to Cambridge when the sun rose.

On Nov. 14, 1776, in Sharon, Massachusetts (abutting Stoughton), Cony married Susanna Curtis (May 4, 1752 – Oct. 25, 1833), daughter of Dr. Samuel Curtis’s brother, Rev. Phillip Curtis. Soon afterwards, he joined an infantry regiment sent to General Horatio Gates’ army at Saratoga, New York.

North told another dramatic story about Cony volunteering to lead a party across an area known to be under British guns. North wrote, “the young adjutant at the head of his men by his wary approach drew the enemy’s fire, felt the wind of their balls, then dashed forward with his command unharmed.”

Cony left the army after the war. His parents, Samuel and Rebecca (Guild) Cony, had moved to Fort Western on the Kennebec River in 1777. Daniel and Susanna joined them in 1778, with their first daughter, Nancy Bass Cony, who died that fall at the age of 13 months. They subsequently had four more daughters, Susan Bowdoin, Sarah Lowell, Paulina Bass, and Abigail Guild Cony.

North wrote that the family made their home on the east bank of the Kennebec. Their second house, built in the summer of 1785 and known in 1870 as the Toby House, was “just below the hospital” (the earliest iteration of Augusta’s insane asylum).

In 1797, North wrote, Colonel William Howard sold Cony a “beautiful spot on Cony street,” a bit farther north. Howard seldom sold land, but his estate had benefited from the new Kennebec bridge and Cony had been a bridge supporter, so Howard expressed his gratitude, North explained.

The first house Cony built on his new land burned in 1834, North said. Cony replaced it with a brick house where he lived the rest of his life.

Sources agree that Cony was successful as a doctor for many years. Augusta had few other doctors in the late 18th century; North mentioned Obadiah Williams, until he moved away, and one other.

In March 1789, North recorded (without explanation), Williams amputated a young man’s leg and “brought it…to Dr. Cony to dissect.”

Cony was a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, North wrote, and “was on terms of intimacy and in correspondence with the leading medical men of Massachusetts.”

Schroeder wrote that in 1797 members of the Kennebec Medical Society elected him the organization’s first president.

Cony’s government service was varied. He was first elected Hallowell town clerk in 1785; North commented that after he took over, “the records began to assume a more regular form.” Schroeder wrote that he held the post until 1787.

Also in 1785, North wrote, a Hallowell town meeting chose Cony as delegate to a convention to be held in Falmouth in January 1786 to consider separating Maine from Massachusetts. At another meeting on Dec. 26, a five-man committee (including Ephraim Ballard) gave him instructions that North reprinted in full.

The instructions emphasized the committee’s desire to avoid conflict. Cony was to support separation only if “the people” were unanimously in favor and if it would not create discord or benefit one part of Maine over another. Any agreement must keep Maine in “the Federal Union,” and the committee members intended to continue to pay Maine’s share of the federal debt.

“Strengthened by the instructions,” North wrote, Cony went to Falmouth “and participated in the deliberations of the convention.”

This convention appointed a subcommittee that drew up a list of complaints about Massachusetts’ government, sent them to the towns whose delegates had attended and asked for representatives to another session in September 1786 to discuss separation. Hallowell voters again sent Cony.

At an April 1, 1786, town meeting, Cony was elected to his first term as representative to the Massachusetts General Court. In mid-April, North said, Cony wrote to the selectmen saying that he believed it was customary for legislators to reward their voters by standing a round at a local inn, to the tune of six or eight dollars; instead, he enclosed eight dollars, to be used for tax abatements for needy residents.

Schroeder wrote that Cony was also elected a Hallowell selectman in 1786; North did not name that year’s board.

The report of the September 1786 convention came to a Jan. 8, 1787, Hallowell town meeting. North recorded 35 voters favored “separation agreeably to the proceedings of the convention”; three disagreed. The majority then instructed Cony “to pursue such further measures as may be considered necessary to obtain a separation.”

Another statehood convention was called for September 1787, and Cony was again Hallowell’s delegate. By this time, North wrote, anti-statehood groups were organizing; the Massachusetts government was offering concessions, like establishing court sessions in Hallowell as well as Pownalborough (as mentioned in the article on James Howard two weeks ago); and interest in statehood waned briefly.

In 1788, North wrote, town meeting voters argued at length whether to send any delegate to the Massachusetts legislature. Eventually they voted to do so, 50 to 19, and re-elected Cony.

After the United States Constitution was adopted in 1787, on Dec. 18, 1788, Hallowell voters chose Cony as a presidential elector from the District of Maine. He also received votes for representative to Congress, but was out-polled by George Thatcher, a “distinguished lawyer” from Biddeford.

In 1789, Schroeder and North agreed, town meeting voters elected Cony one of Hallowell’s three selectmen.

By Hallowell’s May 2, 1791, town meeting, separation from Massachusetts was again being considered. As North told the story, the north-south division that would lead to the separation of Hallowell and Augusta in February 1797 was also in play.

The meeting began with a vote on sending a representative to the Massachusetts General Court, approved 41 to 38. A motion to reconsider was then approved, and this time representation was rejected, 20 in favor and 40 against.

After the election, North wrote, a separate meeting “for the transaction of town business” appointed Cony and four others a committee to consider separation from Massachusetts.

Enough voters, mostly from the area that would remain Hallowell, objected to the first action on May 2 to get another meeting called May 13. This time the vote to continue to be represented in Massachusetts was 52 to 46; Cony was elected over William Howard, on a 61-46 vote.

The May 2 committee then reported, favoring separation and urging a Lincoln County convention authorized to draft a state constitution. Voters approved 50 to 20.

The Massachusetts General Court did not approve, and instead in March 1792 called for special town meetings. Hallowell’s, held May 7, approved separation by a 56 to 52 vote; other towns voted the other way and separation was defeated.

Proponents brought the question to a November 1793 Hallowell meeting and asked for a delegate to a convention in Portland. Cony was chosen, “by 36 votes”; North blamed the low number on bad weather.

Meanwhile, in May 1792 Cony had been re-elected representative to the General Court; but he was also elected a senator, so in September a new representative was elected. North wrote that the same thing happened in 1795.

In the fall of 1792 several sources said Cony was a Massachusetts member of the electoral college that elected President George Washington to a second term. In 1794, he was again in the Massachusetts legislature.

Cony moderated a 1794 meeting that divided Hallowell into three parishes, a movement toward the division into two towns. North said after the “lengthy and warm discussion,” voters formally thanked Cony for “his impartial services as moderator.”

In May 1796, voters in future Augusta petitioned the General Court to divide Hallowell and appointed Cony to present the petition. It was approved Feb. 27, 1797; the new town named Harrington was officially renamed Augusta on June 8.

Cony moderated Harrington’s first town meeting, held April 3, 1797. He was Augusta’s delegate to an Oct. 23, 1798, convention that petitioned for the separation of Kennebec County from Lincoln County, a request granted Feb. 20, 1799.

Cony served on Kennebec County’s Court of Common Pleas. He was a judge of probate before and after Maine statehood; he retired in 1823.

In 1819, Schroeder wrote, Cony was chairman of the Portland meeting where delegates discussed a constitution for the about-to-be-created State of Maine. She called his suggestion that the new state be named Columbus (after Christopher Columbus) “unfortunate.”

North recorded that, like Ephraim Ballard, Cony served on local committees charged with finding a minister, beginning in 1786, when the choice of Rev. Isaac Foster generated years of controversy, in which Ballard and Henry Sewall were involved. Cony served on similar committees in 1792, 1794 and 1809.

That Cony was an active church-goer is attested by references to him as Deacon Cony. North recorded occasions on which he filled in as a preacher.

In 1806, he was one of a committee tasked with choosing a site and building a new meeting house for the “first Congregational society in the South parish.”

All his life, Cony was a promoter of education. North wrote that in the Massachusetts legislature, Cony actively supported a petition for “the incorporation and endowment” of Hallowell Academy, approved March 5, 1791. A new building was built to house the school, and it opened May 5, 1795, North wrote. In 1821 Cony was president of the Academy’s board of trustees.

In 1793 Cony was one of five men appointed a committee to oversee local schools.

Requests for a college in Maine began coming to the General Court in 1788, with proposed locations in Portland, Gorham and Freeport. In 1794, a three-man committee directed Cony, as a Massachusetts legislator, to do his best to get a Maine college established and funded.

The result, North wrote, was Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, chartered June 24, 1794, and given “five townships of land” from which to generate income. Cony was a member of the board of overseers from 1794 to 1797.

(North and Cony would have agreed on this topic, judging by North’s rhapsodic comments on a 1789 Massachusetts law regarding public schools. “This early provision by the parent commonwealth for the education of the people is one of those luminous pages in her history which shed their light upon every step she has taken in the pathway of her greatness,” he wrote.

The law “commanding” that everyone be educated, he continued, was to ensure “that a broad and sure foundation for republican government might be laid in the intelligence and virtue of the people.”)

In his spare time, Cony became a corporator of the Lincoln and Kennebec Bank and of the Augusta and Hallowell Bank, both in 1804, and a director of the Augusta bank in 1814. In April 1807 he became treasurer of the Kennebec Agricultural Society.

In 1808 he was one of a number of men who organized themselves into patrols to keep watch at night during the uprising of settlers defending their right to the lots they lived on (mentioned in earlier stories in this series in the July 2, 2020, and Oct. 27, 2022, issues of The Town Line).

In 1826, North wrote, Augusta celebrated Independence Day “with great festivity” appropriate for a 50th anniversary. “Hon. Daniel Cony, aged and venerable,” (he would have been about to celebrate his 74th birthday) presided at a dinner and made a speech, though he did not stay for the fireworks.

The next year, Cony was on a committee preparing for the establishment of the state capital at Augusta.

Cony, in his old age, and historian North, in his youth, attended the South Parish meeting house. North described Cony, erect and dignified, dressed in a “tartan plaid coat,” with a red worsted cap over his “locks frosted to a snowy whiteness by age” and carrying a cane “by its center so that its large ivory head appeared above his shoulder.

Daniel and Susanna Cony, his parents and other family members are buried in the Cony cemetery, also called the Knight cemetery, on Hospital Street, in Augusta, just south of the Piggery Road intersection.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Early Augusta families – Part 2

Portrayal of Martha Ballard’s household management.

by Mary Grow


Last week readers met James Howard, one of the first settlers at Cushnoc (which became Hallowell, which divided into Hallowell and Augusta) and some of his family members; and your writer promised information on other pre-Augusta settlers, Ephraim Ballard, Daniel Cony and Henry Sewall.

Thanks to her habit of keeping a diary, Martha Ballard’s life has been documented, especially in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s 1991 A Midwife’s Tale, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and other awards. Martha often mentioned her husband Ephraim. After her death in 1812, the last eight and a half years of his life seem to be undocumented.

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Different on-line sources claiming to know Ephraim Ballard’s birth and death dates offer for his birth May 6, 1724, May 6, 1725, or May 17, 1725; and for his death Jan. 7, 1812, or 1821. The 1812 date is obviously an error; Martha Ballard died in May or early June 1812, and on May 1 wrote in her diary that her husband “went to the settlement, bot him some tobacco.”

Ephraim Ballard was born in Billerica, Massachusetts; the family moved to Oxford, Massachusetts, in 1726. (Contemporary maps locate Billerica northwest of Boston, close to the New Hampshire line, and Oxford south of Worcester, close to the Connecticut line; the two towns are more than 50 miles apart.)

Martha Ballard, nurse & mid-wife

In 1754 (Dec. 19, two sources say), Ephraim married Martha Moore (at least once called Martha Moores) in Oxford. According to on-line sources, they had nine children (one source lists 10), the oldest, Cyrus, born Sept. 11, 1756, in Oxford, and the youngest, Ephraim, born March 30, 1779, in Hallowell.

Three daughters died in childhood during a diphtheria epidemic in Massachusetts in June/July 1769: Martha, age eight; Triphene, age four; and Dorothy, age two. Son Jonathan, born in 1763, survived; he died in Hallowell in 1838. Martha was pregnant that spring/summer; daughter Hannah was born Aug. 6, 1769.

North wrote that Ballard was 50 years old when he came from Oxford to Fort Halifax in 1775 and, another source says, leased a piece of land near the former fort. His wife and children had joined him by Oct. 15, 1777, when the family moved into a house owned by John Jones near the confluence of Bond Brook and the Kennebec River. Jones was a fellow surveyor and an avowed Loyalist who had left town under duress.

(Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, said Bond or Bond’s Brook was also called Jones Brook, Ballard’s Brook or simply the mill stream. Thomas Bond, who died in 1815, built the first brick house in Augusta.)

One source said the move south to Hallowell was because other settlers suspected Ballard of Loyalist sympathies and the local Committee of Safety advised him to leave. Others suggested he relocated to make a home for his family. In any case, he took over Jones’ house and mill or mills.

North described the Oct. 17, 1777, session of the Court of General Sessions (on which James Howard served), quoting what he acknowledged was a biased account by a Tory, Rev. Jacob Bailey. Jones and Ballard, Ballard listed as a Vassalboro resident, were among men who were charged with being dangerous to the Revolution and liberty; they faced transportation (deportation or exile).

Three jurymen named Patten, two brothers and the son of one of them, known Tory sympathizers, stood out against the rest for 22 hours. Then, North wrote, the jury sent the judges a query: “Is speaking a few exceptional words counteracting the struggles of the American States for freedom?”

The judges all said yes, North wrote, and Justice Joseph North, of Cobbossee, added that “even thinking or conceiving that the public administration was unjust or injurious was evidently a crime” deserving transportation. The Pattens were unpersuaded, the jury deadlocked and court was adjourned.

Before the court reconvened near the end of 1777, Vassalboro reconsidered its vote and exempted Ballard and others from trial if they paid prosecution costs, which North said came to $100 apiece.

Alma Pierce Robbins wrote in her history of Vassalboro that town records confirm the account, though she dated the court session to the fall of 1775. She wrote that Vassalboro voters were “touched with a little compassion” when they reversed their vote, and added that the defendants paid the $100 costs.

After the Revolution, the Ballards became well-regarded citizens of Hallowell. In 1780, North wrote, Ephraim Ballard “was allowed by the town 200 [British pounds] for his contribution to the revolutionary cause.”

Ballard is listed in one source as a fourth-generation millwright, rather than a surveyor, and various sources mention mills he owned. One on Bond Brook (probably originally John Jones’) burned in August 1787; Ballard built a new one on the same site, with a lively raising celebration on July 7, 1788, followed by a dance that lasted until midnight.

Martha Ballard’s diary and other sources show that he was much in demand as a surveyor. Early work included laying out new settlements for the Kennebec Proprietors, owners of 600,000 or so acres on both sides of the Kennebec River.

In 1796, North wrote, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hired him to survey potential settlements on the Penobscot, in what became Hampden and Bangor.

On Aug. 23 of that year, according to his wife’s diary, a committee hired him to go to Dresden “to lay out a road to the point.” After preparations that included bringing “two birch cannoes [her spelling] to our shore,” he left at 10 a.m. Sept. 5; he came home Oct. 13, Martha wrote.

North did not mention Ephraim Ballard in the early 1800s, but Martha’s diary shows him actively surveying until the spring of 1812, settling lot lines for individual landowners and sometimes laying out new roads for a town.

In mid-April 1801 he was dividing 2,000 acres somewhere between the Kennebec and the Penobscot; in late June that year he had a job in Bowdoinham, in September, in Readfield, in November, in Fairfield; Dec. 22 he spent running the Sidney-Augusta town line.

In 1803, Martha wrote that he “sett [her spelling] out to go to Davis Town” on July 26; he returned on Sept. 27 and “went to attend coart [her spelling] directly.” The length of time he was away suggests that he was working in Maine’s current Davis Town, in Franklin County north of Rangeley and Mooselook­meguntick lakes, almost 100 miles from Augusta.

The diary shows that he farmed his land, worked on his barn, attended church services more often than Martha did, went to town meetings and accompanied Martha to funerals. In July 1807, he and Cyrus (presumably their oldest son Cyrus) spent five days “raising the meeting house.” The project began July 14, when they “went to hear prayers on the raising of the meeting house; they came home and took breakfast, and went down again to the raising.”

On Sept. 20, 1809, the diary says that “Mr. Ballard went to the dedication of the new meeting house.” (The one that was started more than two years earlier?)

Ballard was also intermittently active in town affairs. At the 1784 annual town meeting, he was one of a three-man committee whose job was to find the town a minister. North recorded later involvements in the sometimes-contentious process of finding a man whose doctrines suited everyone.

In 1784, too, Ballard was elected a selectman; he served through 1787, one source said.

North wrote that Ballard was a tax collector by 1793, when he was one of two men to whom 150 British pounds worth of tax bills were committed “for assessments for the [newly-built] meeting-house.”

By June 1794, Hallowell had been divided into three parishes. North wrote that voters at a June 18 meeting in the middle parish (part of Augusta after Feb. 20, 1797) chose Ballard as tax collector. Daniel Cony was meeting moderator, and Henry Sewall was chosen as one of three assessors, North said.

Martha’s diary says Ballard was Augusta’s tax collector by 1800. She occasionally mentioned that he was doing something tax-related – for example, on Oct. 21, 1801, “collecting taxes on east side the river.”

At the end of December 1802, she recorded that he had gone “to settle with the town and county treasurers; past receipts in full for some taxes and in part for others.”

At the beginning of 1804, Ballard was jailed in Augusta, apparently for failing to collect some $800 in taxes. He was soon allowed out, as long as he checked back in at night; his wife recorded spending an afternoon with him at “Mr. Thwing’s” on Feb. 2, and in May he attended the raising of the school house and later worked on the building.

On April 26, 1805, Martha wrote that she had not seen her husband for more than nine weeks; “hear he is well, for which I bless God.” On July 4, she wrote that her husband “returned home at 10h. [hours] evening,” apparently free.

Later diary references show that he was still tax collector in 1808.

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After Hallowell was divided in February 1797, the first town meeting in the northern part (temporarily named Harrington) was moderated by Daniel Cony. North’s list of town officials includes both Ballard sons-in-law: Hannah’s husband, Moses Pollard, was on the fish committee; and Dolly’s husband, Barnabas Lambard, was a fence-viewer and a surveyor of lumber.

The 1797 “Estimate of Property” in Augusta that North quoted shows Ephraim Ballard owned a house and a barn; 240 acres (making him a substantial landowner, though not the largest), of which two acres were “tillage” and 13 “mowing”; two oxen and two cows.

By this time Ephraim and Martha were living in the second of the three Augusta houses they inhabited, all apparently rented. North wrote that their first move was because John Jones’ brother Peter reclaimed the Bond Brook house in the spring of 1791.

An on-line Maine Humanities Council guide to Ballard-related locations says, “they moved to a farm owned by Samuel Howard [probably James Howard’s son] near what would become the Hallowell/Augusta town line.” Martha’s diary gives the date of the move: Wednesday, April 21, after at least two weeks’ preparation.

The previous Sunday the two Ephraims, father and son, had gone to the Howard house to plow the garden, “which we are to improve,” during their tenancy. The senior Ephraim spent three days moving furniture and other belongings.

On November 26, 1799, Martha and Ephraim moved back to the north side of Augusta, to the farm their son Jonathan had bought, “at the fork between the roads leading to Belgrade and Sidney.” This time Cyrus helped move their possessions.

Over the winter of 1811-12, they moved from their own house to Jonathan’s from the end of November to the middle of April, according to the diary. Martha provided no explanation; your writer suspects Maine’s winter weather.

Ephraim Ballard died Jan. 7, 1821, aged 96, according to North.

Main sources

Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)

Websites, miscellaneous.