Good Will-Hinckley’s L.C. Bates Natural History Museum is pleased to announce free admission on Saturday, September 30, 2023, thanks to the generosity of Skowhegan Savings Bank.
The L.C. Bates Museum located at 14 Easler Road on the GWH Campus, in Hinckley, is an early 20th century museum full of unique cabinets of curiosities and Maine wildlife dioramas. Thanks to its eclectic collection of exhibits, it is often called a “Museum of a Museum”. Here you can discover the wonders of nature. Explore exhibits of art, Maine Native American baskets, minerals, and Maine history and archaeology.
Trip Advisor calls the museum, “An Unexpected Treasure Trove!” and Atlas Obscura says, “this eclectic natural history collection holds everything from a bit of the transatlantic cable to Hemingway’s marlin.”
Editors at Yankee Magazine, pose the question whether, “The L.C. Bates Museum | The most interesting museum in Maine?”
As part of Good Will-Hinckley’s Annual Fall Festival, on September 30, children and adults will be able to enjoy fun family activities from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (rain or shine) including free admission to the museum.
Other activities as part of Good-Will Hinckley’s Fall Festival include a climbing wall, lawn games, pumpkin painting, obstacle course, food trucks, craft and art fair, petting zoo, reptile tent, firetrucks, a passport adventure and more!
For more information or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact Barbara Gourley at Good Will-Hinckley (207-238-4000) or visit our website at gwh.org for more information.
Benton, Clinton, Fairfield, Waterville, Winslow
This fourth and final article on the ways central Kennebec Valley towns carried out their responsibility to care for their poorest residents will provide bits of information about half a dozen towns not already discussed.
* * * * * *
For Benton (which was part of Clinton until March 16, 1842, when it became a new town named Sebasticook, changed to Benton on March 4, 1850), Henry Kingsbury had only one sentence about paupers: “The poor of the town have never been numerous, and are cared for [in 1892] by individual contract.”
In his Kennebec County history, he related an informal example. In the early 1800s, he wrote, a family named Piper proposed moving from Anson, Maine, to Ohio. As they were canoeing down the Kennebec, the canoe upset at Ticonic Falls, in Waterville, and the father drowned.
A second-generation Benton resident named Isaac Spencer rescued the Piper son, Joseph, “snugly wrapped in a blanket,” and brought him to his house. Joseph’s mother also survived, but she could not support her son, so he stayed with Spencer.
Kingsbury wrote that Joseph Piper “became a successful farmer.” He died in the 1850s, leaving a large estate on part of which a grandson named Charles was living in 1892.
* * * * * *
Kingsbury wrote that Clinton’s first poor farm, which existed before Benton and Clinton were separated in 1842, was “about half a mile west of Morrison’s Corner.”
Morrison’s Corner was, and as Morrison Corner still is, the four corners where Hinckley Road, running roughly north to south, meets Battle Ridge Road, which runs northeast to connect to Upper Bellsqueeze Road, and Ferry Road, which runs southwest to the former Noble’s Ferry on the Kennebec River.
By 1879, according to that year’s Kennebec County atlas, Clinton had a new town farm east of the original one, on the east side of Hill Road (which runs north-northwest out of downtown Clinton toward Canaan).
* * * * * *
Crossing back to the west side of the Kennebec, the 1988 Fairfield bicentennial history has no reference to a town farm, poor house or almshouse or any other town-funded method of caring for paupers. The first town meeting after the town was incorporated was on Aug. 19, 1788; the first reference to appropriations says that in 1793 “The Town first raised money for schools,” but lists no amount and mentions no other expenditures.
The history gives a short paragraph to what became the Goodwill-Hinckley School (described in the May 20 and June 3, 2021, issues of The Town Line). Rev. George W. Hinckley founded what started as Good Will Farm in June 1889, in the part of Fairfield now called Hinckley, “as a home for boys.”
In November 1889, the history continues, “the Good Will Home Association was organized as a home for needy boys with funds Rev. Hinckley had been collecting for some time.” The writers go on to describe 20th-century changes.
At the end of the bicentennial history is a reproduction of a 1909 map of Fairfield that shows a building labeled “Town Farm.” It is on the south side of a road running east from Green Road to Nye’s Corner, which is south – downriver, toward the Fairfield business district – of the Goodwill School.
A map from the mid-1980s shows the former road as a trail. It does not appear in any form on a contemporary on-line map.
(According to the 1909 map, the town farm was a short distance east of a four-way intersection where at least two families named Green lived. There was a schoolhouse on the east side of the intersection.)
* * * * * *
Waterville was part of Winslow from 1771 to 1802, and Oakland was part of Waterville until 1873, when it became a separate town called West Waterville (changed to Oakland in 1883).
Kingsbury explained that the growth of water-powered manufacturing on Messalonskee Stream, the outlet of Messalonskee Lake, led to the development of an industrial center separate from Waterville’s, which was based on and near the Kennebec.
Kingsbury’s accounts of poor farms in Winslow, Waterville and Oakland are frustratingly incomplete. As he often did, he assumed future readers would have access to the same documents he had, and would recognize the names of families, roads and localities that were part of his daily experience in the 1890s.
In his chapter on Winslow, he wrote that until 1859, paupers were bid off. That year, “the town voted $3,200, and bought the Blanchard farm.”
If the former Blanchard farm was still the town farm when the 1879 Kennebec County atlas was created, it was in a part of town more settled than officials usually chose for an almshouse.
The map shows the Town Farm on the west side of what is now Clinton Avenue (Route 100) running northeast along the Sebasticook River to Benton. The farm is marked about halfway between the top of the hill in Winslow and the Hayward Road intersection. Along this stretch, the map shows a dozen houses (occupied by, among others, several Getchell and Fuller families and two whose last name was Town) and a schoolhouse diagonally north of the town farm.
Kingsbury was slightly more informative on Waterville (unlike the Waterville centennial history; the summary of the 100 years from 1802 to 1902 doesn’t mention the poor, and since the book has a names-only index, finding any other reference is time-consuming).
In Waterville, Kingsbury found, the poor were bid off from 1811 (or earlier) until about 1842. In 1811, five paupers cost the town from 35 to 65 cents a week, for a weekly total of $2.59. In 1812, the town supported a dozen people and the cost went up to $3.48 a week.
(Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s comments about doctors’ fees, cited in last week’s article, suggest there might have been occasional additional charges.)
From 1837 records Kingsbury quoted a decision that the poor as a group “be sold at auction for one year.” Samuel H. Batchelder was the successful bidder, charging $865.
Around 1842, Waterville officials bought from Joseph Mitchell and George Bessey a 90-acre farm to use as a town farm. At an unspecified later date, the town also acquired a woodlot in Sidney, apparently intended to complement the farm.
The 1879 Kennebec County map shows Waterville’s town farm a short distance south of downtown, on the south side of Webb Road. It was just west of the intersection with Mitchell Road, which current maps show coming south from the back of LaFleur Airport to Webb Road.
In March 1890 the house on the town farm burned down. Officials then bought seven acres from George Boutelle and “built the present excellent city alms house at a total expense at $6,444.”
(George Keely Boutelle was a prominent Waterville lawyer and businessman who helped organize and lead several banks and was active in civic organizations.)
By 1892, Waterville’s “poor department” was costing more than $9,000 a year, Kingsbury added.
The 1873 separation of West Waterville (which became Oakland) from Waterville would have required the new town to assume the care of its indigent residents. The 1879 map of the new town shows a town farm not far west of downtown, on the north side of what is now High Street (Route 137 heading west toward Smithfield). Comparison with a contemporary on-line map puts the farm site about half-way between the Oak Street intersection and the Gage Road intersection.
Kingsbury provided evidence that in the early 1890s Oakland was both running a town farm and caring for paupers off the farm. Appropriations listed in a town report for the fiscal year that ended Feb. 28, 1892, included “support of poor,” $1,100 and “town farm,” $500.
A current on-line map labels the road along the east shore of McGrath Pond that connects Route 137 with Route 11 (the Oakland-Belgrade road) as Town Farm Road. A town farm on this road, if there were one, would have been west of the one in use in 1879.
Story of the Bray sisters
Did local methods of caring for the poor lead to those who were bid off to local families being turned into unpaid and mistreated farm and household help? Linwood Lowden said “without doubt” the system led to abuses; an on-line source says there is no evidence of abuse.
Your writer found one piece of writing that looks at bidding out from the paupers’ viewpoint: a short story by Sarah Orne Jewett called The Town Poor.
Two prosperous women in a small Maine town detour on their way home from a church event to visit two elderly sisters, Ann and Mandana Bray, who ran out of money and saw their house and possessions sold at auction and themselves bid out.
They live in a dingy upstairs room in a shabby farmhouse on a run-down farm. The couple with whom they live, named Janes, are not their social equals, and the complaining wife is not enthusiastic about sharing her house with two more adults. The sisters admit to their friends that they haven’t been to meeting because they lack outdoor shoes that their caretakers never remember to buy for them, nor do they have enough stovewood to keep their room warm.
But they bring out the four china teacups saved from the auction, the last of the homemade peach jam from the peaches that grew by their former house, tea and cheese and crackers. The friends have a warm reunion; and Ann says next time, she’ll invite Mrs. Janes, too; the woman means well and deserves cheering up, because she has a hard life and none of the happy memories the Bray sisters have.
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Halfpenny, H. E., Atlas of Kennebec County Maine 1879 (1879).
Jewett, Sarah Orne, A White Heron and Other Stories (1999 edition).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
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 (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.
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 –
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.
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)
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.
On December 9, 2022, Kerryn Morin, of Clinton, was honored by the Maine Association of Community Service Providers (MACSP) as a Direct Support Professional of the Year. Morin works for SKILLS, a St. Albans-based organization with programs and support services for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals in several communities across central Maine. Morin has worked at SKILLS for 18 years.
Morin was one of 15 direct support professionals from across the state recognized during MACSP’s annual meeting for their leadership, collaborative spirit, and commitment to high-quality services for people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and brain injuries.
Several members of the SKILLS team as well as members of Morin’s family attended the event that was held at the Harraseeket Inn, in Freeport.
This article is intended to complete the survey of pre-20th-century social activities in the central Kennebec Valley and, given the current date, to report on Christmas observances.
An organization omitted last week, but covered earlier in this series (see The Town Line issues of April 8 through May 13, 2021), was the Patrons of Husbandry, the farmers’ organization commonly called the Grange. All of the dozen towns and cities covered in this series had at least one Grange; according to the Maine State Grange website, Benton, Fairfield, Palermo and Vassalboro are among 98 Maine towns that still do.
The history of Waterville’s Grange is lost. Edwin Whittemore’s 1902 Waterville history said the Waterville Grange once existed, named three members and concluded, “It is long since defunct.”
The April 8, 2021, issue of The Town Line listed 19 local Granges, including three each in China and Vassalboro and two each in Albion, Augusta, Clinton and Palermo, founded between 1874 and about 1974.
While farming remained prominent, the Grange was a center of social activity, especially in smaller towns. Meetings provided education as well as entertainment, and several Granges had stores where they sold essentials, bought in bulk, to members at discount prices.
In addition to organizational activities, residents had other types of entertainment. Windsor historian Linwood Lowden mentioned minstrel shows, put on by different groups beginning in the 1860s.
He also cited a local diary: “On Monday night, March 29, 1886, the Weeks Mills Dramatic Club performed at Windsor Four Corners. The performance was followed by a ‘sociable.'”
On the west side of the Kennebec, historian Alice Hammond found an advertising poster for the Sidney Minstrels’ Grand Concert on Thursday, Aug. 18, 1898. The location is written in; the cursive script has faded to illegibility.
Vern Woodcock, Boston’s Favorite, had the largest headline; he was described as “the Celebrated Guitarist, and Beautiful Tenor Balladist, in his Comic and Sentimental Songs and Character Impersonations.” Also to perform were Happy Charlie Simonds (“the Merry Minstrel, the Prince of Ethiopian Comedians, and the Champion Clog Dancer of the World”) and other comics and musicians.
The Fairfield history added roller skating to 19th-century local recreational activities. Citing a journal written by a local businessman named S. H. Blackwell, the writers said the roller rink was on Lawrence Avenue, where the telephone company building was in 1988. People of all ages and groups from out of town came to skate.
The China bicentennial history includes a list of available spaces for social gatherings in three of the town’s four villages. In China Village in the early 1800s were “Mr. [Japheth C.] Washburn’s hall and General [Alfred] Marshall’s inn.”
Until the major fire in 1872, there was a three-story building in South China that prominent Quaker Rufus Jones described as a meeting place. Barzillai Harrington’s school building in China’s part of Branch Mills and “the meeting room over Coombs’ store” were available “in the last half of the nineteenth century.”
In Clinton, Kingsbury said, John P. Billings built Centennial Hall, on Church Street, in 1876, apparently as a public hall. He sold it to the Grange in 1890; in 1892, the Grangers used the ground floor and the second floor was “used for exhibition purposes.”
Milton Dowe wrote that Palermo’s “first known building for recreation” was on Amon Bradstreet’s farm, described as between Donald Brown’s land (in 1954) and Sheepscot Lake. Dances were held there until the hall and farm buildings burned about 1890.
In Branch Mills Village, Dowe said, the large hotel east of the Sheepscot and north of Main Street (where the Grange Hall now stands) had a dance hall on the second floor of the ell. Behind the hotel was a dance pavilion. Both were destroyed in the 1908 fire that leveled the entire downtown.
In her Vassalboro history, Alma Pierce Robbins mentioned that the big schoolhouse on Main Street, in North Vassalboro, was used for “‘benefit’ gatherings of many kinds” from the time it was built in 1873, though she gave no specifics before the 1960s.
Sometimes the weather – or a person’s mood – forbade socializing. Lowden’s history has a paragraph titled “B.T.V. (Before Television),” in which he talked about books people could read and reread during long evenings, based on inventories he reviewed.
Some families had no books, he wrote. If there was only one, it was a Bible.
A relatively well-off resident named Reuben Libby, who died around 1814, had four books plus a pamphlet (subject not given). The books were a Bible; a dictionary; Young Man’s Best Companion (also called The American Instructor, described on line as first published in 1792 and offering an easy way to teach spelling writing, reading and arithmetic); and a book described as a “selection” – Lowden did not know whether it was poetry or prose.
Benjamin Duren’s 1814 inventory listed a Bible and a dictionary, two geography books, an arithmetic book and two unnamed others.
A former sea captain’s 1831 inventory listed two nautical books, the American Coast Pilot (first published in 1796) and Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator (first published in 1802, though there were earlier versions from 1799), plus The Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill (the work is described by Wikipedia as 109 volumes, published by John Bell between 1777 and 1783; Lowden did not say whether the set was complete).
* * * * *
Christmas was not much of a holiday in the 19th century, according to the few local accounts your writer found.
In Lowden’s history of Windsor, he used diary entries from the 1870s and 1880s to support his claim that “Mostly it was a quiet day at home.”
The longest account is from the diary of Roger Reeves, a farmer and carpenter. In 1874, Lowden learned, Dec. 24 was a cloudy day with rain that turned to snow; nonetheless, Reeves traveled to Augusta and spent $1.50 on Christmas presents.
Christmas day Reeves “spent the day making picture frames in his shop, doing his regular chores, and otherwise busying himself about the place.” That evening, he joined people gathered around a Christmas tree at Tyler’s Hall to exchange presents, enjoy an “antiquarian supper,” sing and socialize.
(Albion historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin also came across such a supper, though it was planned at a Feb. 8, 1878, Grange meeting, not associated with Christmas, and was in the meeting report spelled “antignarian” – to Wiggins’ delight.
Wiggin consulted her Webster’s dictionary and found that “gnar” meant [and still means, though the web offers additional meanings] “to snarl.” “Anti” means against; so she concluded approvingly that “antignarian” had to mean “not snarling but friendly or smiling.”)
Orren Choate (June 20, 1868-1948), another Windsor diarist, spent Christmas 1885 “at home with his parents,” identified on line as Abram and Adeline (Moody) Choate. They had company in the afternoon.
Christmas evening, Choate skipped a Christmas dance in South Windsor because he didn’t want to drive that far in the cold. Instead, he and his father spent the evening playing cards at the home of his father’s younger brother, Ira Choate.
In Vassalboro, one of the women’s clubs Alma Pierce Robbins mentioned in her town history was the Christmas Club on Webber Pond Road, “where the women met for sociability and sewing for Christmas.” These meetings were held all year at members’ houses, she said; but she gave no indication of when the club was founded or how long it lasted.
Another source of Christmas information was Revolutionary War veteran and Augusta civic leader Henry Sewall’s diary, as excerpted in Charles Nash’s Augusta history for the years 1830 to 1843.
Sewall was a Congregationalist who attended church regularly. He often participated in religious exercises on other days, like the four-day meeting in May 1831 that began daily with a 5:30 a.m. prayer meeting and ended around 9 p.m. after the evening lecture.
Nash was selective in his choice of entries. Between 1830 and 1843, he included only seven Dec. 25 entries (of 14).
Sewall’s 1830 diary entry for Dec. 25 identified the day as Christmas and reported on the warm rain that broke up the ice in the Kennebec. Dec. 25, 1834, had another weather report; the temperature was eight below that Christmas.
In 1832 Dec. 25 was a Tuesday (according to on-line sources). Sewall called the day Christmas and wrote that he listened to Rev. Mr. Shepherd’s “discourse” proving the divinity of Christ.
Four of the entries strike an odd note, and are not explained in Nash’s book. On Dec. 25, 1838, and again in 1839, Sewall wrote merely, “Christmas (so-called).” He expanded on the theme in 1841, writing, “Christmas, so-called, which was employed here in consecrating St. Mark’s church, for their future worship.”
(St. Mark’s Episcopal congregation organized in 1840; Wikipedia says the first church was a wooden building just north of the present Lithgow Library. James North wrote in his Augusta history that the cornerstone was laid July 4, 1841, and the building was first used for worship that Christmas. Construction cost was $6,248; the church was 46 by 85 feet with a 110-foot tall “tower and spire.”)
On Dec. 25, 1843, Sewall, who had noted that he turned 91 on Nov. 24 (and on Nov. 28 recorded that he had finished “sawing a cord of wood, with my own hands”) wrote: “Christmas, as held by Episcopalians, is a misnomer.”
North, in a biographical sketch, commented that Sewall was “pious and rigidly orthodox in his religious views. Towards the close of his life his religious rigor was much softened.”
Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
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).
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).
Henry Kingsbury lists four men who served in “the late war” in the personal paragraphs in his chapter on Benton in the 1892 Kennebec County history.
Stephen H. Abbott enlisted from Winslow and served six months with the 19th Maine; he moved to Benton in 1872 and served as postmaster from 1890 and for three years as a selectman.
Gershom Tarbell was in the 19th Maine for three years. Albion native Augustine Crosby was in the 3rd Maine, credited to Benton. Hiram B. Robinson was in Pennsylvania when the war started and enlisted from there not once but twice; he fought in 37 battles and returned to Benton in 1865.
Kingsbury does not mention Benton-born Frank H. Haskell (1843-1903), described in on-line sources as enlisting in Waterville June 4, 1861, when he was 18. Sergeant-Major Haskell was promoted to first lieutenant in the 3rd Maine Infantry after being cited for heroism during the June 1, 1862, Battle of Fair Oaks (also called the Battle of Seven Pines) in Virginia. His action, for which he received a Medal of Honor, is summarized as taking command of part of his regiment after all senior officers were killed or wounded and leading it “gallantly” in a significant stream crossing.
Another Civil War soldier from the central Kennebec Valley who was awarded the Medal of Honor was Private John F. Chase, from Chelsea, who enlisted in Augusta and served in the 5th Battery, Maine Light Artillery. As the May 3, 1863, battle at Chancellorsville, Virginia, wound down, Chase and one other survivor continued firing their gun after other batteries stopped and, since the horses were dead, dragged the gun away by themselves to keep it from the Confederates.
At least 40 China residents died of wounds or disease, including, the China bicentennial history says, the five oldest of Mary and Ezekiel Farrington’s seven sons. Horatio, age 27, Charles, 25, Reuben, 20, Byron, 19 and Gustavus, 18, died between June 1, 1861, and Oct. 30, 1864.
Records do not show how many Civil War veterans were permanently disabled, the author commented. She retold the story told to her by Eleon M. Shuman of Weeks Mills about Jesse Hatch, from Deer Hill in southeastern China, who (for an unknown reason) fought for the South and came home so disfigured from a powder magazine explosion “that his appearance frightened the neighborhood children, but his friendly words and gifts of apples made him less terrifying.”
One of China’s best-known Civil War soldiers was Eli and Sybil Jones’ oldest son, Captain James Parnell Jones. As the author of the China history pointed out, pacificism is a central Quaker tenet, but in 1861 some Quakers decided ending slavery and maintaining the Union outweighed religious upbringing.
She quoted from the Jones genealogy an account of James Jones (who was 23, married with one son) and his 18-year-old unmarried brother Richard at a troop-raising event.
“Richard immediately raised his hand when the call came but James walked over to his brother, pulled down the raised arm and slowly raised his own. ‘Thee’s too young, Richard.’ ”
Jones was in the 7th Maine, first a company captain and from December 1863 a regimental major, as the troops fought in Virginia and at Gettysburg. In 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness, he allegedly replied to a demand to surrender his embattled regiment with, “All others may go back, but the Seventh Maine, never!”
Jones was killed in the fighting around Fort Stevens July 11 and 12, 1864, as the 7th Maine helped defend Washington.
From Clinton, Kingsbury listed Daniel B. Abbott, born in Winslow, who served in the 19th Maine until June 1865 and after the war bought a farm in Clinton and became commander and grand master of Billings Post, G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veterans’ organization that was disbanded in 1956 after the last member died).
The post was named to honor Captain Charles Wheeler Billings (Dec. 13, 1824 – July 15, 1863), Company C, 20th Maine, who was wounded in the left knee July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Little Round Top and died in a field hospital.
Clinton’s Brown Memorial Library website and a “Central Maine Morning Sentinel” article found on line describe the June 6, 2015, rededication of Clinton’s Civil War monument and the monument at Billings’ gravesite in Riverview Cemetery. The newspaper quotes speaker Bruce Keezer, then President of the Friends of Brown Memorial Library, as saying Clinton had a total population of 1,600 in the early 1860s; 252 men enlisted and 32 died.
The website says Billings was the highest-ranking 20th Maine officer to die at Little Round Top.
Billings left a widow, Ellen (Hunter) Billings, whose 30th birthday was July 1, 1863, and two daughters: Isadore Margaret, born in 1850, and Elizabeth W., or Lizzie, born in 1860. Another daughter, Alice, born in 1856, had died in 1860; and Elizabeth died Dec. 7, 1863. Isadore died in 1897, the day after her 47th birthday. Ellen lived until 1924.
Also from Clinton, according to Kingsbury, were Isaac Bingham, Rev. Francis P. Furber, Joseph Frank Rolfe and Laforest Prescott True.
Bingham had gone to California in 1852; he came home in 1861 and served two years with the 1st Maine Cavalry. After the war he moved back and forth between his Clinton farm and California.
Furber, a Winslow native who moved to Clinton in 1845, served in the 19th Maine for three years. A wound received May 6, 1864, “destroyed the use of one arm,” Kingsbury wrote. He was ordained a Freewill Baptist minister Sept. 27, 1885, after serving as a minister in Clinton and nearby towns since 1875.
Rolfe, born in Fairfield of parents who moved to Clinton when he was about three, served in the 2nd Maine Cavalry from 1863 to the end of the war. True was in the 20th Maine from 1862 to 1865 and was wounded twice.
Fairfield’s Civil War monument is one of the oldest in Maine, according to the town’s bicentennial history. The writers noted that its dedication day, July 4, 1868, was a scorching Saturday: the temperature reached 105 degrees in the shade.
Soldiers came from all over Maine. Ceremonies included a parade; cannon salutes; speeches, including one by Governor (former General) Joshua Chamberlain; dinner prepared by townswomen and served “in the old freight depot”; and a baseball game with a final score of 60 to 40 (the history does not record the names of the teams).
“The day was not without its tragedy,” the history says. A veteran named William Ricker, who had survived the war unscathed, lost a hand when one of the cannons went off too soon. Chamberlain promptly canceled the remaining salutes.
Kingsbury found that one of Sidney’s soldiers, Mulford Baker Reynolds (Aug. 5, 1843 – Aug. 3, 1937) served in Company C of the 1st Maine Cavalry from August 1862 to July 1865, “and spent about six months in Andersonville prison” in Georgia.
Reynolds married Ella F. Leighton on Nov. 23, 1881, according to an on-line source. Kingsbury wrote that in 1892 Reynolds was farming his family place in Sidney and he and Ella had four children.
Among the many Vassalboro men whose personal paragraphs in Kingsbury’s history list Civil War service is Edwin C. Barrows (April 2, 1842 – April 20, 1918). Educated at Waterville and Bowdoin colleges, he enlisted Nov. 19, 1863, in the 2nd Maine Cavalry.
Transferred in June 1865, he became second lieutenant (but acted as adjutant, the officer who assists the commander with administration, Kingsbury wrote) of the 86th U.S.C.T. (United States Colored Troops), serving until he was discharged April 10, 1866.
After the war, Barrows got a law degree from Albany Law School in January 1867 and practiced four years in Nebraska City, Nebraska. He married Laura Alden (Sept. 5, 1842 – Dec. 19, 1909) and returned to Vassalboro in 1872. By 1892, he had been a supervisor of schools in 1882 and 1883 and since then a selectman, “being chairman since 1887.”
Edwin and Laura Barrows are buried under a single headstone in Vassalboro’s Nichols Cemetery.
Vassalboro’s G.A.R. Post was named in honor of Richard W. Mullen of the 14th Maine, one of 410 Vassalboro Civil War soldiers, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote in her town history. After the war, town meeting voters appropriated money to the G.A.R.’s Women’s Relief Corps for Memorial Day services and veterans’ grave markers. The Post disbanded in 1942 and the appropriation was transferred to Vassalboro’s American Legion Post and Auxiliary.
The Waterville G.A.R. Post, chartered Dec. 29, 1874, was named in honor of William S. Heath, who was killed in action at Gaines Mill, Virginia, on June 27, 1862. The first post commander was General Francis E. Heath, the second General I. S. Bangs. Francis Heath was almost certainly William Heath’s brother (variously identified as Frank Edw. and Francis E.; died in Waterville in December 1897), I. S. Bangs the author of the military history chapter in Edwin Whittemore’s Waterville history.
Ernest Marriner added information on William Heath’s life in “Kennebec Yesterdays”. In 1849, he wrote, Heath was 15 and “somewhat tubercular”; his father, Solyman, thought a trip to the goldfields in California would be good for him.
Young Heath “did survive the rigors of the terrible trip across plains and mountains, worked a while in a San Francisco store, then shipped off to China, from which distant land the anxious father soon had him returned through the intercession of the United States government.”
Back in Waterville, Heath graduated from Waterville College in 1853. When the 3rd Maine’s Company H was formed in Waterville in April 1861, Heath was captain and his brother Francis/Frank was first lieutenant. By the time of his death, William Heath was a lieutenant colonel in the 5th Maine Infantry, Marriner wrote. Francis ended the war as a colonel in the 19th Maine, according to Bangs.
Linwood Lowden, in his Windsor history, wrote that Charles J. Carrol, one of seven Windsor men who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg July 2-4, 1863, was mortally wounded. Three more Windsor men, George H. B. Barton, George W. Chapman and George W. Merrill, were killed May 6, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness.
Windsor’s Vining G.A.R. Post, organized June 2, 1884, was named to honor Marcellus Vining. Post members met every Saturday night in the G.A. R. Hall, which was the upper story of the town house, Lowden said.
At an 1886, meeting, “a Mr. Bangs presented a picture of Marcellus Vining” to the organization. Kingsbury added that the Vining family donated Marcellus Vining’s army sword, “his life-size portrait and an elegant flag.”
Lowden believed Vining Post continued “well into the twentieth century.” Windsor voters helped fund the G.A.R., 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.”
Kingsbury wrote that Vining was born on the family homestead on May 2, 1842, third child and oldest son of Daniel Vining by his first wife, Sarah Esterbrooks of Oldtown (Daniel and Sarah had three daughters and three sons; after Sarah’s death, Daniel married Eliza Choat, and they had six more daughters).
On Jan. 25, 1862, Marcellus Vining became a private in the 7th Maine. He served for two years, during which his “ability and courage” (Kingsbury) earned him two promotions. On Jan. 4, 1864, he re-enlisted in a reorganized 7th Maine. On March 9 he was made second lieutenant of Company A, and on April 21 made first lieutenant. On May 12 he was wounded at Spottsylvania, Virginia; he died a week later.
“A captain’s commission was on its way from Washington to him, but too late to give to the brave soldier his richly earned promotion,” Kingsbury wrote.
He continued with a paraphrase from a letter Vining, knowing he was dying, wrote to his father, saying it was better “to die in the defense of his country’s flag than live to see it disgraced.”
Kingsbury concluded: “Thus the oft-repeated tale—a bright, promising man with the blush of youth still on his cheek, willingly laid down his life to preserve that of his country.”
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988)
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984)
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)
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954)
Robbins, Alma, Pierce History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971)
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902)
Revolutionary War veterans from Albion, China, Clinton, Fairfield
Note One: this article and next week’s will be about a few of the Revolutionary War veterans who lived in the central Kennebec Valley. Selection is based on two criteria: how much information your writer could find easily, and how interesting she thought the information would be to readers. There is no intent to disparage veterans who are omitted.
Note Two: Alert readers will have noticed in last week’s piece that artist Gilbert Stuart was misnamed Stuart Gilbert. Your writer accepts blame for carelessness; she also assigns blame to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, for giving their son two last names, or two first names, depending on your perspective.
* * * * * *
Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote that town and state records and cemetery headstones identify more than a dozen Albion residents who were Revolutionary War veterans. Two, Francis Lovejoy and John Leonard, were among early settlers.
Rev. Francis Lovejoy, grandfather of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, was in Albion by 1790. Wiggin found that he served initially in “Colonel Baldwin’s regiment” and later re-enlisted to fill the quota from his then home town, Amherst, Massachusetts.
(Colonel Baldwin was probably Loammi Baldwin [Jan. 10, 1744 – Oct. 20, 1807], who fought at Lexington and Concord in the Woburn [Massachusetts] militia. He later enlisted in the 26th Continental Regiment, quickly became its colonel and commanded it around Boston and New York City until health issues forced him to resign in 1777. Wikipedia identifies him as the “Father of American Civil Engineering” and the man for whom the Baldwin apple is named.)
Wiggin gave no information on John Leonard’s military service. By Oct. 30, 1802, he owned the house in which Albion (then Freetown) voters held their first town meeting. Wiggin wrote that he held several town offices between then and 1811, when his name disappeared from town records.
* * * * * *
A veteran who settled in what is now China, and whose story has been increasingly revealed in recent years, was Abraham Talbot (May 27, 1756 – June 11, 1840). In various on-line sources, his first name is also spelled Abram, and his last name Talbart, Tallbet, Tarbett, Tolbot and other variations.
Talbot was a free black man. He was an ancestor of Gerald Talbot, the first black man elected to the Maine legislature. Gerald Talbot’s daughter, Rachel Talbot Ross, is assistant majority leader in the current Maine House of Representatives.
Born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, to Toby (or Tobey) Talbot, also a Revolutionary War veteran, Abraham Talbot enlisted in the Massachusetts Line in July 1778 and served his nine months’ term at Fishkill and West Point, New York, until March 1779. He married Mary Dunbar in his home town on Sept. 3, 1787.
When he applied for his pension in 1818, he owned an acre of land in China with a small house on it. He and Mary were the only ones living there, although they had had eight children, born between December 21, 1787, and Feb. 16, 1805, in Freetown (now Albion).
William Farris (1755 – Oct. 19, 1841) was another veteran who in 1832 applied for his pension from China, having previously lived in Vassalboro from either 1796 or 1802 (sources differ). He was a native of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and on Oct. 5 1775, married Elizabeth Burgess of that town.
An on-line history says he enlisted three times in three regiments: Nov. 1, 1775, for two months in Colonel Putnam’s regiment; February 1775 (a misprint for 1776, as the writer says he enlisted “again”) for two months in Colonel Carey’s regiment; and April or May 1776 for four months in Colonel Berckiah Bassett’s regiment.
His first terms were spent building fortifications in Cambridge and Dorchester, outside Boston. His third enlistment ended in the fall of 1776 on Martha’s Vineyard, “guarding the shore.”
(Colonel Putnam was probably Rufus Putnam [later a Brigadier General], a French and Indian War veteran who was instrumental in building the fortifications that forced British troops to evacuate Boston in mid-March 1776. Colonel Carey was probably Colonel Simeon Cary, commander of “the Plymouth and Barnstable County regiment of the Massachusetts militia,” which was at the siege of Boston. This writer failed to find Colonel Bassett on line.)
William and Elizabeth Farris had “at least eight children.” After she died around 1805, on March 18, 1806, he married a 22-year-old Vassalboro woman, Martha “Patty” Long. He bought a piece of land in Vassalboro in 1816, but was a China resident by 1832. His annual pension amounted to $33.33.
The China bicentennial history lists seven other early residents who were Revolutionary War veterans, including Joseph Evans. Evans, for whom Evans Pond is named, arrived in 1773 or 1774 and left his wife and children in the wilderness when he enlisted.
* * * * * *
Michael McNally (about 1752 – 1848), sometimes spelled McNully, was a veteran who ended his life in Clinton. He served in the Pennsylvania Line up to 1781. An 1896 on-line source says his descendants claimed that his role was driving the horses that pulled cannons.
Family stories reproduced on line give two accounts of his arrival in Pennsylvania: one says he was born as his family emigrated from Ireland, the other that as a youngster he ran away from home and crossed the Atlantic alone. He settled in Clinton around 1785 and “raised a large family.”
* * * * * *
The Fairfield Historical Society writers who produced the town’s bicentennial history in 1988 listed four early settlers who served in the Revolutionary army and 10 veterans who moved in after the war (eight from Massachusetts, one from New Hampshire and one from Georgetown, Maine).
The most prominent was William Kendall (1759 – 1827), referred to in one section as General William Kendall. The history says he enlisted from Winslow in March 1777 and obtained an honorable discharge in 1780. An on-line source says he was a drummer “in various New England regiments.”
Having bought most of the area that is now downtown Fairfield, including an unfinished dam and mill building, Kendall completed that project and added saw and grist mills in 1781. The village center was called Kendall’s Mills until 1872.
On Christmas Day 1782, Kendall paddled up the Kennebec to Noble’s Ferry (Hinckley) in his birchbark canoe and came back with his new wife, Abigail Chase. The couple lived first in a log house by the river at the foot of present Western Avenue, then in Fairfield’s first frame house and later in a large brick house at the corner of Newhall Street and Lawrence Avenue. The last housed Bunker’s Seminary (briefly mentioned in the Oct. 21, 2021, issue of The Town Line); it was torn down in the 1890s.
The Fairfield history says Kendall served eight years as a selectman. An on-line source adds that he was Kendall’s Mills postmaster in 1816, Somerset County Sheriff and a member of the first Maine Senate. He and Abigail had eight sons and three daughters. Kendall is buried in Fairfield’s Emery Hill Cemetery.
The cemetery, on the river side of Route 201 at the foot of Emery Hill, is near the site of the log house built by Jonathan Emery in 1771 that is called the first house built in Fairfield. Jonathan’s son David (born in Massachusetts Sept. 24, 1754) was one of the four Revolutionary soldiers who enlisted from Fairfield. The historians doubt the story that he enlisted in September 1775, inspired by Colonel Benedict Arnold’s troops marching up the Kennebec on the way to Québec, because dates don’t match.
They did find records showing that David Emery joined the Second Lincoln County Regiment on Mach 12, 1777. On Feb. 2, 1778, he transferred to the Continental Army, where he became part of General George Washington’s personal guard. After being mustered out Jan. 23, 1779, he came back to Fairfield and on April 5, 1782, married Abigail Goodwin. He died in Fairfield; one on-line source gives his date of death as Nov. 18, 1830, another as Nov. 18, 1834.
The other three early settlers who fought in the war were Josiah Burgess (1736 – 1828), a lieutenant from March 1776 to March 1779 in the First Barnstable Company from his home town of Sandwich, Massachusetts; his younger brother Thomas (1741 – 1820), who served in Josiah’s company for a week; and Daniel Wyman (1752 – 1829), who moved up the river from Dresden to Fairfield in 1774 and served three years in the Second Massachusetts Line. After independence, each Burgess brother served as a Fairfield selectman and Thomas was town treasurer for two years.
Jonathan Nye (November 1757 – September 1854) was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and is identified on line as serving as a private in 1775 and 1776 at Elizabeth Islands, first in Captain John Grannis’s company and later in Captain Elisha Nye’s company.
(The Elizabeth Islands are an island chain south of Cape Cod and west of Martha’s Vineyard; they compose the town of Gosnold, Massachusetts, named after the British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, the first European to visit them, in 1602.
(John Grannis was a captain of marines, identified in several on-line sources as spokesman for America’s first whistle-blowers. In February 1777, nine shipmates aboard the frigate “Warren” chose him to jump ship and carry to the government in Philadelphia their charge that Esek Hopkins, in charge of the Continental Navy, was “unfit to lead.” The Continental Congress fired Hopkins.)
The Fairfield history says after Nye’s first one-year enlistment, he enlisted again from Sandwich in the spring of 1777. He was at Saratoga when Burgoyne surrendered and at Valley Forge during the winter of 1778. At some point he became a sergeant. He was honorably discharged at West Point March 7, 1780. After that, the history says, he enlisted yet again for short terms and served on privateers.
The on-line source names his first wife as Mercy Ellis from Sandwich. The bicentennial history calls her Mary Ellis, and says Nye married her “soon after his discharge [in the early1780s, then] and settled in Fairfield.” The history also says that in the spring of 1835, when Nye applied for one of the land grants Congress had just authorized, he said he had lived in Fairfield for 35 years, indicating he moved there in 1800. And in an account of the Nye family in another section of the book, Jonathan Nye is said to have moved from Sandwich to Fairfield in 1788, with his cousins Bartlett (August 1759 – 1822), Bryant and Elisha (Nov. 2, 1757 – 1845) Nye.
On March 18, 1820, Jonathan Nye married again, to Abigail Fish, who died in 1850. When he applied for a military pension in 1820, he said she was not strong enough to help with their farm, and he could not do much because of “blindness caused by small pox while in the army and a lameness in both knees.”
Jonathan Nye’s cousins Bartlett and Elisha were also Revolutionary veterans. Bartlett Nye, according to an on-line family history, served from July 2 to Dec. 12, 1777, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and again for four days, Sept. 11 through Sept. 14, 1779, as a corporal in Colonel Freeman’s regiment responding to “an alarm at Falmouth [Massachusetts].”
(Colonel Freeman was probably Nathaniel Freeman (March 28, 1741 – Sept. 20, 1827) from Sandwich. He had a medical practice, became active in the Revolutionary movement as early as 1773, was a militia colonel from 1775 and a militia brigadier general from 1781 to 1791.)
Elisha Nye was also in Colonel Freeman’s regiment. He is listed on line as serving for several very brief periods in 1778 and 1779.
After the war, each of the brothers held political office. In 1812, Bartlett Nye was in the Massachusetts General Court, where he supported making Maine a separate state; his term had ended before the decision was taken in June 1819. Elisha, the Fairfield history says, “served as Representative from the County” in 1816, presumably also to the Massachusetts General Court.
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).
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