Local residents earn award from WGU

The following local residents have earned an Award of Excellence at Western Governors University, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The award is given to students who perform at a superior level in their coursework.

Whitney Poplawski, of Augusta, has earned an Award of Excellence at Western Governors University Leavitt School of Health.

Brenda Ryder, of Liberty, has earned an Award of Excellence at Western Governors University College of Business.

Scouts: Bear Den carnival held in Augusta

Pack #684 Cubmaster Kevin Bricker looks on as Asher Decoteau tries his hand at the ski-ball game that Kevin built. (photo by Chuck Mahaleris)

by Chuck Mahaleris

The Bear Den Carnival took place on Monday, March 13, at the Fitzgerald-Cummings Post #2, American Legion Hall, complete with games and activities for kids old and young. The annual event was hosted by the youth of Cub Scout Pack #684’s Bear Den as part of their “Grin and Bear it” Elective Adventure. The Scouts had to plan the carnival, invite parents and youth from their pack and then run the program with the help of their parents. Scouts from Troop #631 were also invited to have fun and help with the event. Activities included a toilet paper toss, ski ball on a homemade table, log balance challenge, air hockey using tupperware and electric tape, corn hole, and more.

Cub Scouts Allison Doyle and Kevin Bibeau have a lively game of air hockey. (photo by Chuck Mahaleris)

Gage McFarland tries to skillfully balance the log on two pieces of rope and get it to the laundry basket. Harder than you would think. (photo by Chuck Mahaleris)

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Plagues

Fairfield Sanatorium circa 1940. One of the scourges of the late 19th century through the mid 20th century was Tuberculosis. According to Wikipedia, Tuberculosis (or TB), is an infection caused by bacteria. Typically, it affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. In 90% of cases, the infection remains dormant and goes undetected. In about 10% of cases, the infection goes active. Common symptoms of the active infection include fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Because of the weight loss, the disease was often called “consumption”. Back when it was a major health crisis, those who were infected were often quarantined in sanatoriums. This was common practice across the United States, even here in Maine. The idea was that these sanatoriums would not only separate the sick from the people they could infect, they would also treat the TB. The thought was that they would treat them through good nutrition and fresh air.

by Mary Grow

Note: “The first article in this Kennebec Valley series appeared in the March 26, 2020, issue of The Town Line. Having completed a three-year run, your writer intends to take a few weeks off.”

Since this historical series started in the spring of 2020 as a way to distract writer and readers from the Covid-19 pandemic, part of the plan has always been a survey of past local disease outbreaks.

Someone at the Maine State Museum had the same idea. The museum has a one-page document uploaded in 2020 and headed Maine’s Historic Pandemics.

(The difference between an epidemic and a pandemic is that an epidemic is localized to a country or region; a pandemic affects multiple countries or the whole world. Since this article is focused on the State of Maine, your writer reserves the right to use “epidemic” even when the disease described sickened people outside Maine.)

The museum website lists five diseases, three too recent to qualify for your writer’s attention in this article:

  • Smallpox was at its height from 1600 to 1800; the worst epidemics had a 30 percent death rate; and it was especially severe among Native Americans (who, unlike Europeans, had no previous exposure to give them a chance to develop immunity).
  • Cholera was most frequent in Maine between about 1830 and 1850, with seven separate outbreaks, the museum’s chart says. The death rate is put at 50 to 60 percent.
  • Tuberculosis became epidemic from 1900 to 1950, with a 25 percent death rate. One of Maine’s three tuberculosis sanatoriums was in Fairfield – see the Sept. 22, 2022, issue of The Town Line.
  • Maine’s polio epidemic ran from 1900 to 1960, mainly affecting children. The death rate is listed at 5 to 15 percent; many who survived were paralyzed or lamed for life.
  • Influenza is listed as a pandemic in 1918 and 1919, when the disease spread world-wide. The death rate was 2 percent.

Abandoned Fairfield Sanatorium today

Some Maine local historians frequently mentioned epidemics; others ignored them. Diseases most often noted were smallpox, scarlet fever and diphtheria.

In a 1995 paper for Maine History (reprinted on line in the University of Maine’s invaluable Digital Commons series), John D. Blaisdell called smallpox “one of the most frightening of all diseases.” Often fatal, especially to children, the virus left survivors with permanent scars; the Maine State Museum website says it also caused blindness.

A National Park Service (NPS) website discusses the development of inoculation, the practice of deliberately sharing smallpox by transferring pus from an infected person to a healthy one. Doctors discovered that the person being inoculated would usually have a mild case and would seldom develop the disease again.

The website uses colonial Boston as an example. In a 1721 smallpox outbreak, Puritan minister Cotton Mather heard about inoculation from his African slave, Onesimus, and talked Dr. Zabdiel Boylston into trying it.

The website calls this trial inoculation “incredibly controversial.” People got so angry that someone bombed Mather’s house. Many feared the health consequences, and clergymen insisted that smallpox was “God’s punishment for sin” and therefore inoculation “interfered with God’s will.”

Boylston, undeterred, took the experiment seriously and followed up. He found that the 1721 outbreak killed 14 percent of the people who accidentally caught it from others, versus only two percent of those who were deliberately inoculated.

People slowly accepted inoculation, including George Washington, who promoted it regularly during the Revolutionary War to keep his army healthy enough to fight. In 1777, he ordered soldiers inoculated, “the first medical mandate in American history,” the NPS website says.

Inoculation was succeeded by vaccination, a process using a weakened or altered version of the pathogen against which immunity is desired (an on-line site says today the terms inoculation and vaccination are used synonymously). Blaisdell wrote that the earliest smallpox vaccine was developed in Great Britain by Edward Jenner in 1798; the idea came to Boston in 1799 and was “quickly accepted by the American medical community.”

The earliest local reference to smallpox your writer found was in James North’s history of Augusta. He mentioned an October 1792 outbreak among Hallowell residents; “Mr. Sweet and two of his children died with it,” he wrote.

In 1816, Vassalboro historian Alma Pierce Robbins said in her chapter on schools, there was enough fear of a smallpox outbreak that, she quoted (from town records), “a sum was voted to insure the Inhabitants against small pox.”

The earliest disease outbreak Wiggin mentioned in her Albion history was in 1819.

Smallpox was spreading among townspeople, and there was agreement on what to do about it, so voters created a committee to “use every effort to prevent the further spread of small pox.”

Wiggin added that there was no further information on the committee’s success or failure in town records, and neither she nor Robbins gave any hint as to the method(s) used. Wiggin wrote that she found records of another outbreak years later.

Also in 1819, Blaisdell referenced a Penobscot Valley outbreak, starting in Belfast and moving up the river. He said that Hampden doctor Allen Rogers used vaccination as one method of fighting it.

Blaisdell noted another outbreak in early 1840 in Winterport and Bangor.

Linwood Lowden wrote in his history of Windsor that an 1864 town meeting warrant asked for money to compensate Patrick Lynch “for damage received on account of being fenced up [quarantined] for the public safety in the case of small pox.” On May 14, 1864, voters approved paying Lynch’s doctor’s bill.

Lowden found a record of a smallpox vaccination – probably not the first one in town, he wrote – on Thursday, Nov. 12, 1885, when a Dr. Libby, from Pittston, vaccinated Orren Choate.

Another 19th-century method of controlling smallpox, diphtheria and other contagious diseases was fumigating the premises with a gas like chlorine, cyanide or formaldehyde, Lowden wrote.

Cholera, an intestinal disease characterized by severe diarrhea, is caused by a bacterium that is usually transmitted through contaminated water or food. The disease is often fatal unless it is promptly diagnosed and treated.

The major way to prevent cholera is adequate sanitation. It is now uncommon in developed countries, but epidemics still occur in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Cholera vaccines are available and are recommended for residents of and travelers to areas where the disease is common.

Your writer found no records of cholera in the Kennebec Valley, but it could well have killed residents here, because it has been documented elsewhere in Maine. An on-line site, citing an April 2020 article in the Bangor Daily News, mentions outbreaks in Bangor in 1832 and in 1849, and one in Lewiston in 1854 that caused 200 deaths.

The article says the cause of the 1832 Bangor outbreak was a trunk of clothing that had belonged to a sailor who died of cholera in Europe. When his belongings were sent home and shared among family members and friends, the disease was shared, too.

The history article in the Dec. 1, 2022, issue of The Town Line mentioned an 1883 case of scarlet fever in East Machias that was attributed to contaminated clothing brought from an infected area.

Closer to home, Martha Ballard’s diary recorded scarlet fever in Hallowell in the summer of 1787. Entries in June, July and August describe patients with “the rash” or “canker rash” (an old name for “a form of scarlet fever characterized by an ulcerated or putrid sore throat,” according to the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary).

Captain Henry Sewall’s son Billy died June 18, a week after Ballard was first called to see him because he was “sick with the rash.” By the end of July Rev. Isaac Foster had it and was unable to preach. (Last week’s history article summarized relations between Sewall and Foster.)

Early in August, Ballard was back and forth among several households with sick children, some she explicitly said had scarlet fever and others so ill they must have had it too. All the McMaster children caught it, and William McMaster died; Ballard sat up all night with him before his death, and wrote of her sympathy for his pregnant mother.

On Aug. 7, Ballard started at Mrs. Howard’s where her son James was “very low”; went to see Mrs. Williams, who was “very unwell”; to Joseph Foster’s to check on the children there; and to her back field to gather some “cold water root” that she took to Polly Kenyday for a gargle, “which gave her great ease.” When she got home, she found her husband with a very sore throat; he too benefited from the cold water root and “went to bed comfortably.”

The 1899 Windsor Board of Health report, cited in Lowden’s town history, recorded eight scarlet fever cases.

Local historians mentioned two diphtheria epidemics in the second half of the 19th century.

During the 1862-63 school year, according to a town report Wiggin cited, 17 students in Albion schools died of diphtheria – she found no record of infant or adult deaths. (That was a sad winter, she pointed out; it was during the Civil War, from which, according to one report she found, only 55 of the 100 Albion men who enlisted returned.)

The 1988 history of Fairfield mentioned a diphtheria epidemic in 1886.

Lowden listed repeated outbreaks of typhoid fever in Windsor. He wrote that it killed four residents in 1850 and “three young men” in 1877; and the 1899 Board of Health report recorded two more cases.

Biographical sketch of Fairfield’s Dr. Frank J. Robinson

The context for the mention of the Fairfield diphtheria epidemic was a biographical sketch of Dr. Frank J. Robinson (Jan. 23, 1850 – February 1942).

A native of St. Albans (about 30 miles north of Fairfield), Robinson taught school before enrolling in Maine Medical School (later Bowdoin College) in January 1874 and graduating from Long Island College of Medicine in 1875 (the writers of the Fairfield bicentennial history do not explain how he did this; they do say he took numerous post-graduate courses).

Robinson practiced in Fairfield for 65 years, in an office in the Wilson block on Main Street until 1936 and thereafter from his 71 High Street home. The Wilson Block was evidently a medical center; the Dec. 16, 1902, issue of the Fairfield Journal, found on the Fairfield Historical Society’s website, reported that “Dr. Austin Thomas, who has come here from Thomaston, is not as has been reported, associated with Dr. I. P. Tash but has leased the offices in the Wilson block, formerly occupied by Dr. Goodspeed.”

Robinson treated people in Benton, Clinton and as far away as Norridgewock, according to the history.

He was still active at a public commemoration of his 89th birthday, the occasion on which the history says he remembered the diphtheria outbreak that infected 44 Fairfield residents.

The Fairfield historians added that he was again honored on his 92nd birthday, the month before his death, recognized as “one of the oldest practicing physicians in Maine, if not in the country.”

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).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Area residents named to dean’s list at UNE

Photo credit: University of New England Facebook page

The following students have been named to the dean’s list for the 2022 fall semester at the University of New England, in Biddeford.

Albion: Emma McPherson and Olivia McPherson.

Augusta: Valerie Capeless, Zinaida Gregor, Jessica Guerrette, Brooklynn Merrill, Daraun White and Julia White.

Benton: Jessica Andrews.

Fairfield: Caitlyn Mayo.

Jefferson: Mallory Audette.

Oakland: Kierra Bumford and Francesca Caccamo.

Palermo: Peyton Sammons.

Sidney: Sarah Kohl.

Skowhegan: Wylie Bedard, Elizabeth Connelly, Ashley Mason and Dawson Turcotte.

South China: Richard Winn.

Vassalboro: Adam Ochs.

Waterville: Mohammad Atif-Sheikh, Elias Nawfel, Grace Petley and Evan Watts.

Winslow: Juliann Lapierre, Kristopher Loubier and Justice Picard.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta families – Part 5

Henry Sewall

by Mary Grow

Henry Sewall, part two

Last week’s article on Henry Sewall (Oct. 24, 1752 – Sept. 4, 1845) omitted (or rather postponed) an important aspect of his life: he was a deeply religious man.

James North, in his history of Augusta, summarized: “He was upright, conscientious, pious and rigidly orthodox in his religious views. Towards the close of his life his religious rigor was much softened.”

Sewall’s diary is a main source for North’s history into the 1790s, and fellow Augusta historian Charles Nash excerpted it from 1830 to 1842. Sewall wrote where he went to church and who preached almost every Sunday, and there are frequent references to weekday services and religious organizations.

Especially in his earlier years, Sewall often had public disagreements with whatever minister the town hired.

In 1784, North wrote that the preaching of Rev. Nathaniel Merrill “was not acceptable to Capt. Henry Sewall, who soon discontinued his attendance.”

The next year, voters hired Rev. Seth Noble from September 1785 to mid-March 1786. Sewall disapproved of Noble’s doctrines, too, and joined other dissatisfied residents who gathered Sundays for worship at Benjamin Pettingill’s (sometimes Pettengill).

Despite having contracted with Noble, North wrote, when voters got a recommendation to hire Rev. William Hazlitt, they named Sewall, Cony and North as a committee to hire him for two months. On Nov. 13, Sewall heard his morning sermon, declared him an “Armenian” and probably an “Arian” and went to Pettingill’s for the afternoon.

(The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Arminianism as a Protestant doctrine that denied predestination and said the idea free will did not contradict belief in a sovereign God. The same source says Arianism “stresses God’s unity at the expense of the notion of the Trinity.”)

There were at least two ministers who did meet Sewall’s standards. In 1785, he once “went nineteen miles to Jones’ plantation” (later China) to hear a Rev. Kinsman (North gives no first name), who also preached in Hallowell, including at Thomas Sewall’s house (Thomas and Henry were brothers). That same year, Sewall praised Rev. Ezekiel Emerson when he came from Georgetown to preach in Hallowell.

In 1786, a 15-man committee including Sewall (and James Howard and Daniel Cony) recommended a salary for a new young minister named Isaac Foster, from Connecticut. Foster began preaching in July; North quoted from Sewall’s diary: “preached poor doctrine”; “preached rank Arminianism.”

In August, according to Sewall’s record, he met twice with Foster, but failed to “convince him of the impropriety of his doctrines.” As most of the rest of the townspeople prepared to ordain Foster their minister on Oct. 11, 1786, Sewall remained opposed, even preparing written objections to Foster’s beliefs.

A council of ministers approved Foster as Hallowell’s minister and a “public tea­cher,” after an all-day debate at Daniel Cony’s house. North surmised that Sewall skipped Foster’s sermons and went to Pettingill’s on Sundays, where he “probably officiated to the few who sympathized with him.”

At some point, Sewall called Foster a liar. As a result, he and his brother Thomas (who “was in some way connected with the charge,” North wrote) were brought to court, convicted and fined. Thomas Sewall paid his 12 shillings; Henry Sewall appealed his fine of “fifteen shillings and costs.”

He claimed to have proof of his accusation against Foster, but apparently the corroborating witness was unavailable when the appeal was heard in June 1787, and the higher court refused to allow a continuance (because the parties couldn’t agree on where it should be held). Lacking evidence, Sewall gave up and paid his fine – “wisely,” North commented.

Foster (who had been accumulating enemies and detractors) on May 9, 1788, sued both Sewalls. North said he demanded 500 pounds from each man.

The Sewalls sent a friend to Foster’s previous ministerial post to find evidence against him. Thomas Sewall again ducked out of the case, trusting a three-man committee to rule on his role.

Henry Sewall’s case was initially scheduled in June and postponed to January 1789. But in the fall of 1788, after long and acrimonious debates, Hallowell fired Foster, and apparently the case died.

After the Foster affair, North wrote, some Hallowell people got together with a group from Chester Plantation (now Chesterville, some 35 miles northwest of Augusta; Henry and Thomas Sewall’s brother Jotham lived there) and in 1790 formed the Chester Church. On March 15, 1791, these members met at Sewall’s house and renamed themselves “A Congregational Church of Christ in Hallowell.”

In June that year, Sewall found – met in a tavern on his way to visit another minister, North claimed – Rev. Adoniram Judson, who preached briefly in Hallowell to the “new” – Sewall’s – church but was spurned by all but one member of the “old” Hallowell church.

In the fall of 1792 the two Hallowell churches tried to merge, but agreed only to invite three outside ministers to help them. In mid-January 1793, the outsiders drafted a merger agreement.

But, North quoted (from Sewall’s diary, your writer suspects), the “new” church people (specifically, Henry Sewall, your writer suspects) “had weighty objections…to several members of the other church on account of doctrines and moral character.”

After a private session, the objectors agreed to the merger on condition that it could be undone at the request of a majority of either church. In June 1794, North wrote, after some former members of the “old” church had been disciplined “on account of doctrine and unbecoming conduct,” the former Chester church again became a separate entity. North did not name Sewall in describing the split, though he based his description on Sewall’s diary.

The original single congregational parish in Hallowell became three in 1795. When Augusta became a separate town in 1797, what had been Hallowell’s middle parish, with its 1795 meeting house, became Augusta’s south parish.

By the time your writer was able to pick up Henry Sewall’s story again at the beginning of 1830, he was regularly attending “Mr. Tappan’s church” (Rev. Benjamin Tappan) in the south parish, where a series of visiting ministers preached on Sundays. Sewall often attended more than one Sunday service, as well as weekday meetings.

From June 22 through June 24, 1830, he (and on June 23 and 24 his wife) were at the Maine Missionary Society’s general conference in Winthrop, with enough delegates from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Kentucky to fill the meeting house.

From Sept. 14 through 16, the Sewalls were at the County Conference of Churches, where he was a delegate. The conference was in Chesterville, so he visited Jotham, but the Sewalls stayed with a non-relative who lived nearer the meeting-house.

In October 1830 he was gone for almost two weeks to Boston for the annual meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He went to Boston by steamboat from Portland; the ocean was rough when the meeting ended, so he came all the way home by stagecoach, via Portland and Brunswick.

Sewall went to another A.B.C.F.M. meeting in Portland in September 1838. His diary does not explain either time whether he was a delegate or an observer.

On May 4, 1831, Sewall noted that Tappan began a four-day meeting. Each day’s schedule had an hour of morning prayers at 5:30, prayer meetings and preaching at intervals all day and a 7 p.m. lecture that lasted up to two hours.

Sewall mentioned his personal opinions in two contexts: he opposed Masonry (the fraternal organization, not the building-trade skill he practiced), and he supported temperance.

He noted in his diary that on Jan. 7, 1830, he responded to a request for his “views of freemasonry.” On Jan. 28, he wrote, “My Renunciation of Freemasonry appeared in a Boston anti-Masonic paper.”

The July 29, 1831, publication of a new anti-Masonic newspaper in Hallowell was worth mention; and he sent to “Gen. Crosby” in Houlton a letter and “4 anti-masonic Almanacs.”

On July 4, 1832, Sewall noted the Anti-Masonic state convention at the “new courthouse,” whose members nominated candidates for governor and for U.S. president and vice-president. They attended Tappan’s church in the afternoon.

In mid-October, Sewall wrote about going to Wiscasset and after discussion with “Major Carlton,” advising the anti-Masons to join the National Republicans on a “union ticket” for presidential and vice-presidential electors, “provided there should be no adhering Masons thereon.”

Sewall sometimes attended temperance lectures, and on March 31, 1841, wrote in his diary, “A remarkable reformation among the intemperate here, and through the country in general. Hope and pray it may not prove a failure, as some other reforms have done.”

Less than a month later he recorded the formation of a Washington Temperance Society in Augusta by the local rum drinkers. By May 14, he wrote, 150 local men had pledged abstinence.

The inscription on Sewall’s tombstone in Augusta’s Mount Vernon Cemetery reads: “An officer in the Revolutionary War. Major General of Militia in Maine; yet more honorably known as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and a faithful officer in the Christian Church.”

Rev. Benjamin Tappan

Rev. Benjamin Tappan

Rev. Benjamin Tappan, D.D. (Nov. 7, 1788 – Dec. 22, 1863), was pastor of Augusta’s South Congregational Church from 1811 to 1849.

A plaque in the church at 9 Church Street, Augusta, is dedicated “to the glory of God, and in memory of” Rev. Tappan. It reads: “His children here reverently record their undying gratitude and love for a Father in whom wisdom, integrity and a large-hearted benevolence were joined to steadfast faith in Christ, and untiring activity in His service.”

Tappan, son and grandson of Congregational ministers, was born in West Newbury, Massachusetts; graduated from Harvard College in 1805 (before his 17th birthday); taught in Massachusetts; and in 1809 became a tutor at Bowdoin College. He was later vice-president of Bowdoin’s board of trustees.

In October 1811 he was “ordained over” the Augusta church, where he stayed until 1849.

Adjectives North applied to Tappan include “active, industrious…zealous, devoted, benevolent, learned and pious…humble and accessible to the lowly.” An on-line biography describes him as “an immense worker,” “noted for his hospitality and generosity” and “an effective preacher…[with] a remarkable gift in prayer.”

In June 1814 Tappan married Elizabeth B. T. Winthrop, from a wealthy Boston family; they had seven children. North wrote that he gave so much to charity that by the time he died his wife’s fortune was reduced, but “she was as charitable as she was kind, and encouraged his giving.”

Tappan was an early supporter of the temperance movement; the biography says his first sermon on temperance was in 1813.

Henry Sewall noted in his diary that on Sunday, July 4, 1830, Tappan’s sermon was on slavery, and he “had a contribution in aid of the Colonization Society.”

(The American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 to help ex-slaves and other free blacks emigrate from the United States to Africa, especially to Liberia. Many African-Americans and many abolitionists opposed it. Its activity declined after the Civil War, but Wikipedia says it was not officially dissolved until 1964.)

While supporting colonization, Tappan appears to have been an abolitionist. Nash wrote that when the Maine Anti-Slavery Society was organized in Augusta in October 1834, Tappan hosted British abolitionist George Thompson.

Tappan left the Augusta church in 1849 to become secretary of the Maine Missionary Society, a position he held until his death.

The biography says his honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees came from Waterville College (now Colby College) in 1836 and from Bowdoin in 1845.

The church in which Tappan preached was not the present Gothic Revival building, but the second of three churches on the site, built in 1809 and struck by lightning and burned in 1864 (see the Nov. 10, 2022, issue of The Town Line).

Main sources:

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 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.

Local students enroll at St. Lawrence University

The class of 2026 are leaders in and out of the classroom. They’re artists and performers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and advocates. Even before they matriculated on August 21, 2022, they set the bar high for future Laurentians. They came to St. Lawrence University, in Canton, New York, with a cumulative four-year GPA of 92.3 – a record for an incoming class.

Among them are Emma Crosby, of Augusta, and Tanley Tibbetts, of Chelsea. Thirty-eight percent of students ranked in the top 10 percent of their respective graduating high school classes, and 70 percent were in the top quarter.

SNHU announces fall 2022 dean’s list

It is with great pleasure that Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), in Manchester, New Hampshore, congratulates the following students on being named to the Fall 2022 dean’s list. The fall terms run from September to December.

Those attaining dean’s list status are Brandon Stinson, of Augusta; Jessica Autieri, of South China; Patric Moore, of Waterville; Crystal Hillman, of Fairfield; and Petra Sullivan, of Vassalboro.

SNHU announces summer ‘22 president’s list

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), in Manchester, New Hampshire, congratulates the following students on being named to the Summer 2022 President’s List. The summer terms run from May to August.

Kate Murphy and Justin Drescher, both of Augusta, Matthew Bandyk, of Jefferson, Merval Porter, of Palermo, Lisa Johnson, of South China, Lacey York, of China, Lilly Reardon, of Benton, Jeffery Wheeler and Brendon Peace, both of Waterville, Talon Mosher, of Winslow, Jacob Colson, of Albion, Carrie Stackpole, of Clinton, Stormy Wentworth, of Fairfield, Glenn Rich and Mariah Rich, both of Madison, and Kassandra Grant, of Vassalboro.

Endicott College announces local dean’s list students

Endicott College, in Beverly, Massachusetts, the first college in the U.S. to require internships of its students, has announced its Fall 2022 dean’s list students.

The following students have met these requirements: Emily Clark, of China, daughter of Stacy Clark and Christopher Clark, is majoring in nursing; and Hunter Scholz, of Augusta, son of Kimberly Scholz and Stephen Scholz, is majoring in history.