What Happened to Charles and Grace After Pine View Farm?

Charles & Grace Jordan with Bonnie-Bell at Pine View Farm

Charles & Grace Jordan with Bonnie-Bell at Pine View Farm

In 1943, 1956, and 1957 the United States of America bought Pine View Farm a piece at a time, until it was gone, having become part of the Naval Air Station Brunswick. My great aunt, Grace Purinton, received a total of $12,225 for the family homestead.

3 Wilson Ave, Brunswick, ME

3 Wilson Ave, Brunswick, ME

With part of the funds, she and her husband, Charles, bought the house at 5 Wilson Ave., geographically a straight shot down Old Gurnet Rd. from their former farm, but in reality, a world away. To visit friends in the old neighborhood or place flowers at New Meadows Cemetery, they now had to drive all the way around the Naval Air Station.

Grace Jordan, wife of Charles Jordan

Grace Jordan, wife of Charles Jordan

This inconvenience was short-lived, however. Grace had developed diabetes. In the summer of 1958, after losing a leg to the disease, she died at age 69. In short order, Charles sold the Wilson Ave. cape and moved to his son Robert’s home in Portland where he died in 1960 at age 90. The couple’s obituaries seem to reflect their widely different personalities, with Grace’s detailing her social activities and Charles’s sticking to the barest facts.

Charles and Grace obitsSo ends the saga of Pine View Farm, Grace (Purinton) Jordan (1889-1958), and Charles M. Jordan (1879-1960).


  • Pine View Farm tells the story of the Purinton family homestead at New Meadows, Brunswick, being taken as part of Naval Air Station Brunswick.
  • Great Island Road, Merriconeag Road, and Old Gurnet Road are essentially one and the same as used in this blog post.


  • 2003 Community Information Guide (Map of Brunswick, Maine), CMC Communications, In. Birdsboro, Pa., 2003
  • Brunswick, Maine City Directory 1957, Ancestry.com
  • Brunswick Record, July 10, 1958
  • Brunswick, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell, Topsham Directory 1957-’58, The Price & Lee Co., New Haven, Conn. 1958
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx
  • Map of the Town of Brunswick, Drawn and Prepared by H. E. Mitchell, The Mitchell Publishing Co., Augusta, Maine, 1910
  • Joan (Moreau) Purinton, interview 2014
  • Portland Press Herald Thursday, January 14, 1960
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“Your Maine Home” Essay Contest Winner – 1st place

Barbara Desmarais:

My plan had been to repost this essay along with what happened to Charles and Grace Jordan after they left Pine View Farm. I’ve not quite figured out how to do that, however, so I’ll be writing a new post “What Happened After Pine View Farm” for the next blog!

Originally posted on Maine Historical Society Blog:


We are pleased to present below the first place winner of our 2014 “Your Maine Home” essay contest. This year we asked to hear about defining moments in the history of your Maine home or neighborhood. The contest ran in the summer and the winners were announced in the fall print newsletter, which was mailed to MHS members last week. The second and third place winners will appear on this blog on Tuesday, September 9 and Wednesday, September 10–so come back soon! Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all the entrants. We received many wonderful stories.

Pine View Farm

By Barbara A. Desmarais

Pine View Farm once sat upon a gentle knoll in the New Meadows section of Brunswick.

Pine View Farm once sat upon a gentle knoll in the New Meadows section of Brunswick.

Pine View Farm in the New Meadows section of Brunswick had been in my family since the late 1700s.

My mother and her seven siblings often reminisced about visiting…

View original 490 more words

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Diary of Betsey Alexander: Part 4 – Endings

Betsey gave birth to daughter, Catherine, on August 9, 1857, aboard the Scioto, while it was anchored off the coast of Peru loading guano. On October 21st, the Scioto rounded Cape Horn, hauling the odiferous cargo to England:

  • Wensday 21 cold and a fine breez Passed Cape Horn in Lat. 56.34 Long 66.00 and have bid good Bye to it forever I hope all in good health and spirits I have been washing to day and sewing a little so that I shall not forget

Two days later, the Scioto passed the Falkland Islands. Heavy, cold weather upset the chickens, loneliness and a leak onboard the ship upset Betsey:

  • Thursday 22 cold and uncomfortable wind N.W. I have been Ironing and sewing for Cate so passes away the time and we moving along towards home
  • Friday 23 this morning is more Pleasant with wind N. W Passed the Folkland Islands in Lat 53.19 Lon 59.32. no Ships in company with us vary lonesome
  • Sunday 25 thick wether and cold with vary heavy sea and vary lonesome I did not dare to look out dore
  • Monday 26 thick and foggy with frequent sqalls midnight experienced a heavy hail storm accompanied with thunder and lightning lat 56.15 Lon 50.10 we have all sorts of wether here in this region
  • Tuesday 27 thick wether and cold with squalls of snow all well on board; the Chickens look rather stimsy as the cold wether did not agree with them
  • Wensday 28 thick and cold with high wind and heavy sea, I got vary much frightened Thomas came in and told me the Ship had sprung a leak but it Proved to be but trifling and I soon got over it
  • Thursday 29 this morning rather more Pleasant. P M the sun is shining. We all give it a harty welcome it is quite a stranger here I have been sewing for Cate to day so passes the time with me

Antique BottleIn November, shipboard life took a domestic turn and Betsey sewed and Thomas spent time with his wife and daughter. The ship was becalmed; Thomas once again seemed unwell:

  • Friday 6 rather more Pleasant the Ship is quite easy and it seems like home again
  • Saturday 7 this morning fine and Pleasant with fair wind I sewed most all day Thomas has been reading to me or taking care of Cate
  • Sunday 8 this Morning Wind N W and Pleasant the Ship gliding along like a bird but I feel lonesome when I think of home It is such a long road and thinking of all the storms we may have to encounter the burnd child dreads the fire so do I the storms and gales of wind
  • Monday 9 this morning clear and calm I mending a coat for Thomas and taking care of Cate the Ship siso [is so] still that I almost think that I am at home or on the land.
  • Wensday 11 clear and calm again not a bit of wind I have been on deck a number of times today drying my clothes Thomas has just taken a Portion of castor Oil the first for two years I hope it will make a breeze
  • Friday 13 still calm and vary Pleasant I have got tired of this calm wether Thomas is getting impacient waiting for a wind it is as still as if we were in a house I have been mending stockins most all day

Eli sighted a school of fish being chased by a shark, bringing prospects of rare fresh food. A sailor becomes deathly ill as the ship approaches the Equator:

  • Saturday 14 as calm as ever no Prospects of wind rather dull and lonesome I have been sewing this morning while Cate is asleep Thomas has a vary bad hed ache, Eli has been in and cried fish long side the Ship the fish accompanied by a Shark Thomas & the mates are trying to ketch them a fresh fish would be a great rarity
  • Monday 16 Wind NW fine breeze a Sailor vary sick, our Ship still in company. Afternoon fine breeze to the West and vary Pleasant saw a Barque Steering North we are nearing home now I think the Day ends vary Pleasant with a few Drops of Rain
  • Thursday 19 Wind N light breeze we seem to be alone again, Eli vary busy riging his Ship to day. Afternoon Lat 23.02 Lon 29.00 tacked Ship & Stood to the Estward the Sailor still vary sick but little chance for his recovery,
  • Friday 20 variable winds and vary warm I sewing to day Thomas complaining of a cold with bad headache the Sailor still vary sick and low. We are still alone no vessels in sight and I am homesick,
  • Saturday 21 head wind and lonesom time Thomas almost sick to day Evening Thomas took some Pills and a swet in hopes to drive away his cold
  • Sunday 22 this Morning Thomas is better but stiff head wind I am afraid the blues will set in and make him sick yet. Evening I have got a stiff neck for a comfort so ends to day


  • Monday 23 this morning the wind is rather more favorable and vary pleasant  This evening at half Past 9 o clock the sick man die, so we all must pass away,
  • Tuesday 24 this morning Wind N E and Pleasant at 8 o clock committed Andrew Johnson,s [sic] body to the deep in Lat. 20.58 Lon. 26.40. he was a native of Winesburg was sick about 2 weeks was a great sufferer one week he had his senses for a moment, it was a Sollem sight to see a burial to Sea
  • Wensday 25 this morning calm vary warm and I have commenced to wash some for little Cate afternoon light breeze to the E evening the Sailors squaring the yards & Thomas seems like him self again he has had the blues for a week it is quite a common complaint with him especialy when we have had wind or calm I think it never proves fatal

In December the Scioto passed the Equator :

  • Saturday 5 this morning still fine and Pleasant a nice breeze to the S.E Past the Equater Lon 24.40 getting nearer a christian land I hope Cate is a wake and I must stop writing
  • Thursday 17 a fine breeze to {ink blotch] N E some Prospects of getting home   once more the sun is shining and is quite a stranger, afternoon still clear and Pleasant a fine breeze but not so fair as we would like to have it better than none but we are never contented always something not just right with us Thomas has got the blues again.
  • Saturday 19 fine morning bright sun not vary warm just right for comfort I have been Ironing to circulate the blood and not forget how, 7 bells and I will rest I think Thomas is homesick to day he is talking of home
  • Friday 25 this is Christmas morn and vary Pleasant with a light breeze saw two sail an American Ship on the windward bow a Bark on the lee low not near enough to speak them, P m Calm hardly a breth of wind dull times this

The Scioto was still becalmed when 1858 arrived:

  • Friday January the 1 of the new year begins with Calm and head wind I think we have vary bad luck saw one Ship to day so we are not alone in trouble.
  • Saturday 2 head winds and calms with frequent Showers saw a Brig on the wether quarter Thomas is getting Cross and the mate is no better so we have a happy time Evening saw two Ship lights this is Saturday evening and it is lonesome enough and I am homesick enough
  • Friday 15 commences with Pleasant weather wind from the S.E all well on board Thomas rather cross thinking of our long Passage I think we have a Jonah on board

Betsey ended her diary Sunday, January 17th, 1858:

  • Sunday 17 this day commences with fine wether but rather cold for comefort Thomas & Cate are both asleep and it is rather lonesome but a fair wind makes me think we shall get in soon I long to get on the land once more and smell the earth it would be a treat to me

Last MapRecords show the Scioto reached Liverpool, England, with its cargo of guano and then headed to New Orleans, most likely to load a cargo of cotton. During that summer of 1858, yellow fever raged through New Orleans. On August 3rd, nearly two years after leaving Portland, Maine, Capt. Thomas Alexander died. He was one of 4,845 people who succumbed to yellow fever that year.

Betsey, Eli, and Cate returned to Brunswick, Maine. Though Eli had taken to shipboard life, he became a farmer and house joiner, living in Pownal and Harpswell. Cate’s place of birth in censuses was listed variously as South America, Spain, and Cuba.

Capt Thomas AlexanderBetsey Alexander








Though Capt. Thomas is probably buried in New Orleans, there is a headstone for him next to Betsey’s in Growstown Cemetery, behind the First Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine.


  • Sinnett’s genealogy of the Merriman family states that their farm on the River Road became Riverside Cemetery. I predict another deed search is in my future.


  • United States Federal Census Records, Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine. Ancestry.com.
  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Arlene L. Bradbury, Village Press, before 2001
  • Deeds. Cumberland County Registry of Deeds
  • Digital images from http://www.morguefile.com
  • http://nutrias.org/facts/feverdeaths.htm
  • World Map with Continents Template. http://www.printableworldmap.net/
  • “A Singleness of Purpose” The Skolfields and Their Ships. Reynolds, Ermini S, and Kenneth R. Martin, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, 1987
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants. Charles Nelson Sinnett, Rumford Printing Company, 1905
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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Betsey Alexander Diary: Part 3 – A Passenger Comes Aboard

We left Betsey Alexander on July 4th, 1857, aboard the ship Scioto docked at the Chincha Islands, Peru: 

Saturday the glorious & all seem to respect the day  the Ships fireing Salutes. Thomas gon again to assist Capt Burges to Sea  Ship OS(?) Talbot bound to Callao and Gaudaloop  this is the evening of the fourth  the Americans are fireing and ringing their bells and sending up Ski Rockets and wherrawing and making all the noise they can except the Scioto and her crew. This is the fourth at the Chincy Islands.

Sea Birds
Betsey was in a nesting mood, cooking, sewing, and doing laundry. Visitors aboard the Scioto didn’t seem to cure her longing for home:

  • Saturday 11  in the morning Thomas went on board the Ship Oriental Capt Whipple Mary Bangs Capt Gomes  afternoon he went on the Island and got an Order for loading [guano]
  • Sunday 12  Pleasant Morning and vary still except the birds screaming  Afternoon Capt Edwards & Wife Children Capt Greeno & Capt Mitchell on board and spent a few hours
  • Monday 13  All well on board  Commenced taking guanno  all vary busy  Dr Cokea made a friendly Call  I made some cake  for a rarity some of my own cooking  sewing in the Evening
  • Tuesday 14  this Morning Thomas gon on board the Ship Cholo to assist in getting her to sea  Ship bound to Cows [Callao?] for orders  Ship Clarra Wheler gon to this morning & Ship Trombot Capt Richardson Barque Curant of Bath [Maine] arrived to day  as one Ship goes another one comes
  • Wenesday 22  Sailed this Morning Ship  Mountain Wave Hellet Master Hrey  Stone Capt McFarlin  Thomas gon this moning with Capt Mitchell on business  Eli Making types to prnt with  I am glad to have him in the cabbin with me for I am vary lonesome  afternoon a new Stewardess came on board and commenced work
  • Friday 24  all well on board Ship  I washing all day  Friday is my wash day  no callers to day  Thomas has been on board the Store Ship to mail some letters to go to the States.

The ship was moved to a better location for loading. Sailor Smith and Capt. Alexander became ill. Betsey, herself, was ill and in bed Sunday evening, August 9th, she still managed to welcome a new passenger on board — and to the family:

  • Thursday 30  this morning  Thomas gon on board Ship Tropic  Smith sick  sails to day  on his return help came on board and moved the Ship Scioto in a more convenant [convenient] burth  his help consisted of Capt Purinton Pilot Capt Mitchell his assistant Capt Gray & Capt Gay  at 3 dined on Fish & Turkey etc  so ends this day
  • Friday 31  gon again  Thomas gone with Capt M… to move the Oliver Gordon  Afternoon finished washing and sat down to rest. at 3 O’clock the Dr on board to see a sick sailor  Eve Capt Mitchell & Capt Stinson spent the Evening with us  so it ends
  • Saturday  August the 1  Ship Tarquin Capt Smith Sailed for Dunkirk  Capt Cousins Capt Purington & Wife Capt Edwards & Wife Capt Mitchell made a call Evening  Capt Roberson on board on business
  • Thursday 6  this Morning a new Cook came on board  the old one left and joined the Ship Corronet  Capt Purinton & Wife Mrs Gay Mrs York.  Ship Western Chief Capt Dyer arrived this afternoon
  • Saturday 8  this morning Thomas on board most sick and has got the blues, Afternoon Thomas & Eli gon on the Island again on business  I left alone and have to make my work company for me
  • Sunday 9  this morning fine and Pleasant   Afternoon Wind blowing and vary rough Evening sick and confined to my bed  20 minutes Past 7 Cate Cleveland was born  Dr Crosby Mrs Gray Mrs Purington Mrs York was with us  so Passed this Sabbath

A Chicken DrownedA passenger named Parker came aboard. The Scioto left Peru, headed for England. But first, they had to make it around Cape Horn:

  • Tuesday September the 1 [no entry other than date]
  • Tuesday 15  this morning all bustle and confusion bending Sails and getting ready to go to Callao  Thomas & Eli gon on the Island
  • Wensday 16  left the Chincha For Callao  Mr. Parker Passenger
  • Tuesday 22  this morning Thomas gon to Lima to clear the ship 7 o’clock in the evening sailed form Callao for Cows [?] England
  • Wensday 23 to sea, etc
  • Saturday 26  have not been on Deck for a week  Cate takes the most of my time  sewing some spare moment
  • Sunday 27  Lonesome as it is all Sabbaths especially to sea
  • Monday 28  the Ship going along beautifully  I have been sewing some to day on little Cate (a frock,) a Chicken flew overbord to day and was drowned
  • Thursday  Oct the 1  all well on board the Ship  fell in company with an English Ship  it seems good to have a Ship in sight
  • Friday 2  this Morning a fine shower  This afternoon the Sun is shining  Thomas & Cate are napping  Eli looking at the Sigs [Signal flags] and I am trying to write my Book  we have been out all day  beautifull wether and fine breeze  Ship under full sail
  • Sunday 4  fine Morning wind NW  a fine Shower  this Morning we have Pleanty of company three Ships  our English friend almost in speaking Distance  the sailors are washing to day  I have been on the Poop to day the first for a long time  so ends this day
  • Monday 5  this Morning Calm  our friend proves to be the Ship Collumbia of Liverpool  Thomas Spoke with the Capt this AM Lat 31 38 Long 90:00  this is like summer  Sun Shining and warm and I am almost homesick to day
  • Saturday 10  thick wether and squally with rain and snow  reefing Sails and vary unpleasant and rough and rather cool
  • Sunday 11, the wind bowing and a heavy sea  reefed topsails and vary unpleasant to day  reminds us of Cape Horn and sweet home
  • Tuesday 13  Wind S. W. and blowing a gale with heavy sea  all hands vary busy reefing and taking in sails  fine cape horn wether.
  • Wensday 14  thick wether fine breeze W S W & all well on board Ship  nearing cape horn  all hands in fine spirits
  • Thursday 15  thick wether strong breeze from the S. W.  cold and rough  I cant do nothing but take care of Cate except eat.
  • Friday 16  Clear wether  all sail set  wind to the west  fine wether for Cape horn  Eli is in fine spirits as fat as a Pig  he is riging a Ship for amusement
  • Saturday 17  commences with strong breeze from the Westward  8 AM wind halled to the NW  reefed fore and mizzen top sails Split main sail , blowing a gale from the N.W. with heavy squall and cold
  • Sunday 18  Wind N. W. and squaly with rain and Snow scudding the Ship  reefed Sail  it looks lonesome  Thomas is sober as a deacon


Cape Horn Return Map

On October 21st, 1857, the Scioto rounded Cape Horn, just north of the Antarctic Circle:

  • Tuesday 20  this day commences with strong breeze from the West with rain and snow and Lightning  so cold I kept to by burth all day  lived on gruel and broth  this is cap Horn in reality  it reminds me of winter at home  Thomas & Eli has been snowbaling on deck
  • Wensday 21  cold and a fine breez  Passed Cape Horn in Lat. 56.34 Long 66.00 and have bid good Bye to it forever  I hope all in good health and spirits  I have been washing to day and sewing a little so that I shall not forget [how]

Next Blog one week: Betsey Alexander Diary: Endings


  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Photocopied by Arlene L. Bradbury, Pownal, before 2001
  • World Map with Continents Template. http://www.printableworldmap.net/


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The Diary of Betsey Alexander: Part 2 – Goin’ for Guano

In our last blog, Betsey Alexander, rounding Cape Horn in the ship Scioto from Brunswick, Maine, summed up March, 1857, thusly:

  • Tuesday 31 Calm and clear PM Cloudy and cold nothing goes right

AlbatrossIn April the cold weather continued, as did Betsey’s longing for home. Eli seemed to thrive, even catching albatross to eat. No mention about whether or not the albatross tasted like chicken:

  • Friday 3 Wind WSW Cold and cloudy  Ship roling bad  Eli & Mr. Buryin trying for Bird
  • Saturday 4 Wind WSW and vary cold  Mr Richardson and Eli catching Albertross  Eli caught two  he feels plenty big enough now  I shall have to lengthen his pants if he ketches any more
  • Sunday 5 Wind WSW thick wether and raining all day and vary cold  a lonesome Day for Sunday  I wish we were home
  • Monday 6 Wind W rather more Pleaant to day  I should like to be at home to wash some of our clothes.
  • Wensday 8 Wind W Pleasant and quite warm  a Ship in company with us  I feel glad when we have company for Thomas is most discouraged bad wether and hed winds  Poor Cook and lazy Stewardess  what is worse
  • Monday 13 Wind blowing a gale and a heavy sea the  Ship roling so that we could not Stand and the man to the Wheel lashed  a gloomy time  this is going to sea calio [Port of Callao, Peru]
  • Thursday 16 Wind NNW in the morning Clear and pleasant  Afternooon Wind N and thick wether  Eli caught an Albertross  I labeld him and let him go for some one els to ketch if they can.
  • Wensday 22 Wind S Clear and Pleasant with a heavy sea  saw plenty of Whales long side of the ship

In May Dennis the Pig met his fate and moods improved with the warm breeze and other ships in sight:

  • Saturday 2 Wind S and Pleasant  I have been ironing Shirts  the Mate and Cook killed Denis the Pig  we shall live again  I should like to be at home to Day with the Children and the rest of the folks
  • Sunday 3 Wind S thick wether  looks vary much like rain  I wish that I was at home to Day  I think that I should make some calls  we saw a Ship this afternoon  it was quite a sight  it was good for sore eyes and lonesome folks
  • Monday 4 Wind S and pleasant  a Ship in company with us, to day I am washing  it seems quite natural to wash on Monday
  • Tuesday 5 Wind S and a beautifull breeze and a lovely Day  something like going to sea
  • Wensday 6 Wind S the ship going along like a bird  light sea  it is like being at home  I have been Sewing all day

peliquins on dockThe Scioto anchored in the Port of Callao, Peru, to deliver their cargo of English coal. Sailors ran away; captains and their wives socialized:

  • Friday 8 AM I ironed Shirts  PM went on Deck to see the Ship go into Callio, Ship came to Anchor in Calio at 5 PM  Capt Edwards cam on board and made a social call
  • Saturday 9 at Anchor Safe in Callao  Thomas gon on Shore  PM Capted Wards on board the Men clearing away and getting ready to discharge Cargo
  • Sunday 10 this is a beautifull Day  it seems like our Spring mornings at home only the birds are to [too] large to sing
  • Monday 11 this morning thick and foggy  the Sailors Denied Duty and trying to run away  afternoon Sailors all gon.  Capt York & Wife & Mrs. Bluny Capt Edwards & Wife made a call  Thomas went to Lemia [Lima, Peru] in the Cars
  • Tuesday 12 Thomas on Shore most all Day  took Jack [Eli's dog?] with him and lost him, Commenced discharging the Ship with a new gang of Sailors  I alone most all the time and reparing dresses to Make some calls if Pleasant
  • Thursday 21 a Pleasant morning  went on Shore with Thomas & Eli  met with Capt Purington & Lady Capt Harriman & Lady Capt. Edwards & Lady Mr. Hart & Capt. Emons &  all went to Lima in the Cars  had a social time  took a long walk where there was beautifull trees  then went into two Churches that was splendid  walked round and saw the City wich is not vary pretty
  • Monday 25 on board the Ship  sewing all day  Thomas on shore most of the day  Eli goes to the shore [illegible] four times a day in the boat with the boys  caugt one of the runaway Sailors to day
  • Tuesday 26 I am washing to Day  finished in the forenoon  the afternoon had caller on board, lost the runaway Sailor through carelessness  spoilt Thomases nights rest and did not help me to sleep any sounder than usual.
  • Wensday 27 I am all alone to day and vary lonesome  Thomas on shore full of business bothered with the Sailors  they are all sorts of cretures
  • Thursday 28 In the morning ironing and doing other chores  Afternoon sewing, the Ship Sam Duning came up from the Island.  One of the Men got hurt  (he was) to work in the hole
  • Friday 29 this morning fine and Pleasant  Thomas been on shore to the market  Eli went with him & says he see nothing but beef and Old womn  Capt Skoldfield of Ship Sam Duning [from Brunswick, Maine] and a number of others on board afternoon  Capt Skoldfield on board  Thomas went on board his Ship with him and spent evening
  • Thursday 12 alone most of the day  finished Discharging Coals  Thomas and Eli on shore this afternoon Bonny[?] in the cabbin with me  quite good company  better than none
  • Saturday 13 alone to day  Thomas gon to Lema, afternoon Customhouse officers on board the Ship

rock islandJune 15th, the Scioto left Callao, headed for the Chinces Islands for some of “the good stuff”:

  • Monday 15 Pleasant  the Capt gon on to lima  I washing  Eli waiting on me. All confusion on board the Ship getting ready for the Chinces [Chincha Islands, Peru]
  • Tuesday 16 AM Sailed for the Chincy Island  PM wind all died away and left us in a calm
  • Thursday 18 fine breeze to the SE I am Mending for Eli and Thomas on deck most of the time do day a Ship in company he takes to be the Sun Shine Cap Purse (?) from Calloa bound to the Chinces Islands for some of the good stuff
  • Sunday 21 Pleasant and light breeze to the SE  I have been on deck this afternoon looking at the Ships that are in company with us bound to the Chinces  Thomas on Deck most of the time so I am alone  Eli is all over the Ship  cant keep him with me except he is asleep.
  • Tuesday 23 Still to sea  Thomas on Deck walking to pass away the time  I ironing  Eli on deck with the men  rather lonesome to day
  • Wensday 24 not arrived to the Chinces yet  head winds and heavy sea  it puts me in mind of the Cape Horn
  • Thursday 25 in Sight of the Chinses nothing but head Winds  Thomas Skolding about his bad luck  everybody beating him

gulls green dockThe Scioto arrived at the Chincha Islands, Peru, home of the marine birds that produced the commodity so valued by Europeans — guano. The sailors shoveled guano; captains and their wives socialized:

  • Friday 26 AM Arrived at the Chinces at last  all well  a number of Yanky Capt came on board to escort us in and help to Moor the Ship  Capt Night took Thomas on shore and I am alone again  Evening Capt Mitchell on board and spent the evening
  • Sunday 28 vary Still and lonely  Ships with their Cullers [colors/flags] flying Afternoon Capt Edwards Wife 2 Children on board and made a social call  Evening Capt Mitchell spent the evening with us.
  • Monday 29 Washing this morning  Thomas gon on board som Ship  Eli waiting on me. Afternoon a Plenty of callers  Capt York & Wife Capt Freeman & Wife & Capt Goodens Capt Edwards & Wife Mrs Hariman & Mrs Purington Capt Whipple  all made a gentell call
  • Tuesday 30 at 6 oclock AM  Thomas went to see the Ship Edwin Fly go to sea  Eli & I takes our breakfast in the aft cabin alone so we can enjoy it better and take our own time. Thomas making Calls on business
  • Wensday July the 1  all in good health and Spirits  Thomas gon to help Capt Cooper Ship Gull Haven to sea  I sewing all day
  • Friday 3 Thomas gon on Shore  Eli with him  I sewing all day  afternoon Ship Reporter Arived here  Dr Coke Called to see a sick Sailor, so passes away the time

blue fireworksThe Fourth of July, 1857, ended with celebrations on all the ships except for one:

  • Saturday the glorious & all seem to respect the day the Ships fireing Salutes. Thomas gon again to assist Capt Burges to Sea Ship OS(?) Talbot bound to Callao and Gaudaloop  this is the evening of the fourth  the Americans are fireing and ringing their bells and sending up Ski Rockets and wherrawing and making all the noise they can except the Scioto and her crew. This is the fourth at the Chincy Islands.

Next blog in one week: Diary of Betsey Alexander, Part 3: A Passenger Comes Aboard


  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Photocopied by Arlene L. Bradbury, Pownal, before 2001
  • “A Singleness of Purpose” The Skolfields and Their Ships. Reynolds, Ermini S, and Kenneth R. Martin, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, 1987
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The Diary of Betsey Alexander: Part 1

In the spring of 2001, just after my former elementary school teacher, Doris Parsons, (A Note From the Teacher) wrote to me of her grandparents, Charles Frederick (1838-1907) and Josephine (Alexander) Owen (1845-1879), another Alexander descendent, Arlene Bradbury, mailed me a reproduction of the 1856-1858 shipboard diary of Betsey (Merriman) Alexander (1817-1895). Betsey was a great-grandmother of both Doris Parsons and Arlene Bradbury.

Diary of Betsey AlexanderThe next four blogs will include transcribed excerpts from the diary as written by Betsey, with my clarifying notes in brackets [].

Betsey Merriman was born in Harpswell, Maine, the daughter of Walter and Isabel (Alexander) Merriman. She married Thomas Alexander in Brunswick, in 1840. Together they would have six children, including Mrs. Parson’s grandmother, Josephine, and Mrs. Bradbury’s grandmother, Catherine.

Betsey wrote the diary while she, son Eli, and husband, Capt. Thomas, were at sea aboard the Scioto, one of many ships built by the Skolfield family in Brunswick. During the almost two-year-long journey, daughters Josephine and Betsey Ann remained behind.

Why would Betsey leave two of her children and travel the seas for such a long time? Though it might seem strange to us, it was not unusual for a captain’s wife and children to go to sea. And at age nine, Eli was the perfect age for adventure and exposure to the family business, dangerous though it often proved to be. Perhaps the voyage was business as usual.

Thomas Martin Alexander (1849-1849) and Thomas Martin Alexander (1854-1856)

Thomas Martin Alexander (1849-1849) and Thomas Martin Alexander (1854-1856)

Or perhaps Betsey looked at leaving her home on the River Road in Brunswick as a respite from her own grief. On January 2nd, 1856, her own brother, Capt. Thomas Merriman, was lost at sea from the bark Ben Adams when the ship was a mere 15 hours out of the port of Boston, bound for New Orleans. Just two months later the Alexanders’ two-year-old son Thomas died. Whatever the reason, by September that same year, Betsey, Eli, and the Capt. were in Portland, Maine, some thirty miles south of Brunswick, preparing to ship out.

The diary begins:

  • Portland Thursday Sep the 25 1856
    Days Journall
    Portland Sept the 25 1856
    First Day Layer to the Senteral [Central] Wharf getting ready for Sea
  • Friday 26 Took Steam & towed out the harbor  Wind to the South And pleasant wether.
  • Saturday 27 Wind South East
  • Sunday 28 Wind to the North  Beat in to St. John  Moord Ship

While at port in St. John, New Brunswick, they weathered a gale, loaded cargo to take to Liverpool, hired a crew, and entertained:

  • Wensday Oct the 1 Wind ESE blowing a gale and raining & vary unpleasant wether.
  • Friday 3 Wind South towd in Moord Ship and commenced Loading
  • Saturday 4 Wind S & Pleasant
  • Sunday 5 Wind SW & Pleasant Company on board to Dine
  • Sunday 12 Wind to NW and Pleasant Dined on board of the Ship Esmeralda Capt McM
  • Monday 13 Wind to SW Cloudy Stevedore to work day & night lading Ship & getting ready for sea
  • Tuesday 14 Wind N finish loading  Sailors came on board the Ship
  • Wednesday 15 Wind NW Sailed from St John for Liverpool [sailed] AM

As the Scioto commenced crossing the Atlantic Ocean, mother and son both became seasick:

  • Friday 17 Wind S [illegible letter]at nigh fresh breezes  Myself & El seasick in the Berth
  • Saturday 18 Wind SE hals SW Eli and I Sick as before past eating, no provision lost today
  • Tuesday 21 Wind NW & raining  Poll blows heavy  took in the forsail and close reefed the Topsails  Eli and I both Sick
  • Wensday 22 Wind NEW up and to work  Eli on deck

Though he would be sick off and on, when Eli rallied he learned sailors’ knots:

  • Friday 31 Wind SW and raining all sails set  Eli tying Sheep Shanks & Tom fool nots [knots] & acting Sails

That November Capt. Thomas had his own trials:

  • Friday 7 SE & fresh breezes & cloudy  Thomas cross as a bare

In November, they arrived at St. George’s Channel between Ireland and Wales, then put in at Liverpool, England, where they socialized with other ship captains and their wives, some of them like Capt. Skolfield sailing in ships from the Alexanders’ hometown of Brunswick, Maine.

  • Saturday 15 towed into the Dock & raining and blowing  Pilot left & Capt. Skolfield was on board Ship
  • Sunday 16 we went on board of The Rising Sun and Took Dinner with Capt Skolfield
  • Monday 17 Mr Mcarvy Mr Wood & Mr Decoss came on board
  • Tuesday 18 Capt Mcmannas on board and others
  • Wensday 19 Capt Skolfield & Wife Capt Stover & Wife took a Walk & we went with them

Diary PagesThe women shopped:

  • Thursday 20 Mrs. Skolfield & I went Shoping
  • Thursday 27 on board all day  in the evening we went Shoping
  • Friday 28 had a Dress Maker to work
  • Saturday 29 Dress Maker the same
  • Monday Dec the 1 went Shoping  came home in a Snow storm and sewed the remainder the day
  • Fryday 19 in the morning a new steward & Stewardess came on board in the afternoon Mr Moony & Wife Mr Desilva & Wife Capt Mitchell on board to tea and spent evening
  • Saturday 20 on board Ship all day  Capt Merriman on board & spent the evening
  • Sunday 21 took a walk in the afternoon on board the Ship Aruba Capt Merriman
  • Tuesday 23 this morning Mr. Decoss Capt Merriman & Capt Lincon on board  Capt on Shore
  • Wensday 24 thick wether  Mr Decoss Mr Baker on board shop & all Men on board fixing stove etc
  • Thursday 25 Christmas spent the Afternoon & evening to Mr Feeny

The New Year of 1857 passed pleasantly. One week later the ship left Liverpool:

  • Thursday January 1 company on board to dine and writing home
  • Monday 5 on board all day  Joseph on board and styed all night [Joseph is probably Thomas’s brother, Capt. Joseph Alexander.]
  • Thursday 8 nine oclock in the Morning left Liverpool  Wind SE and Pleasant wether left Joseph on the Pier
  • Friday 9 thick wether & Eli and I both sick
  • Saturday 17 Wind NE and pleasant  Ei on deck  myself sewing all day

Betsey writes about onboard livestock as well as ocean-going creatures encountered as they headed past the coasts of Portugal and North Africa:

  • Sunday 18 Wind NE and pleasant sun shining  Eli & I on deck often feding his Rabits & hens
  • Monday 19 Wind NE & Cloudy Thomas overhaling his papers  in PM Eli & I watching Porpoises
  • Tuesday 20 Wind NE and pleasant  sewing all day  Thomas looking for a porpoise  Eli much interested in the sport
  • Wensday 21 at 6 AM made the Maderer [Madeira, Portugal, off the coast of Morocco] Islands Wind N fine Breez
  • Sunday February 1 commences with rain in the Morning  caught 3 Dolphins in the afternoon  caught a Shark  all took a look at it and then committed it to the deep

World Map 1Barely three months into the voyage, as they headed to the cold southern Atlantic Ocean and Cape Horn, things started to go wrong:

  • Wensday 4 Wind SSE and clear  lost Maine Topmast
  • Thursday 5 Wind SE and Clear  all hands to work making a new topmast  Eli and his dog looking on
  • Wensday 18 no wind  warm and Sultry  I was sewing all day
  • Thursday 19 Wind NE and clear  vary warm  saw a Ship
  • Tuesday 24 Light breeze NE  PM lost our Chantalier [chanticleer/rooster] over board Eli almost cried for his loss
  • Sunday March 1 Wind SSE in the Morning foggy and cool  Caught an Albertoss  the mate skinned him  PM Pleasant and Clear  saw a Whale Thomas & Mr. Richerson fired at it but it had no effect
  • Monday 9 Wind W clear and cool  stewardess sick. The Pig got hungry and killed a hen
  • Thursday 12 Wind SW and cold and heavy sea carried away fore yard
  • Fryday 13 Wind S split main top mast stay sail blowing a gale and heavy sea. And vary cold
  • Saturday 14 Wind SW blowing heavy  Ship pitching and roling so that We could neither set nor stand  I fell against the Door and got a black eye  this is going round the cap horn [Cape Horn, Chile, South America] in high life
  • Monday 16 Wind W Clear and cold  the Ship still so that I can sew and finished a Shirt
  • Tuesday 17 Wind SW sent up fore yard and bent topsail cloudy and cold
  • Wensday 18 NE AM raining with thunder and lightning and hail as large as pease PM cold with frequent squalls vary uncomfortable
  • Thursday 19 Wind S cold and squaly  Ship roling so that I cannot work  laid in my birth part of the Day  hail and snow plenty of it
  • Friday 20 Wind N a fine breeze Ship  going 9 not [knots]  I sewd all day to keep myself warm  Eli heating planks to keep warm feet  PM Cloudy  saw a Ship homeward bound
  • Saturday 21 Wind NW cold and raining  homesick wether  Eli trying to ketch Cape Pigeons  PM Spoke the Barque Clarrisa of New Bedford [Massachusetts] and from Talcahanna [Talcchuano, Chile] and bound for New Bedford a Whaler
  • Wensday 25 Wind WSW  Saw two Ships homeward bound  home Sweet home
  • Thursday 26 Variable winds vary cold. In company with a Frensh Ship and Brig all day
  • Friday 27 Wind W and squally  in company with the Brig  lost sight of the Ship. The mate Sick
  • Saturday 28 calm in the Morning and raining, afternoon blowing Wind SW  nothing but cold
  • Sunday 29 Wind SW  I went to bed to pass away the time and think of home and wish myself there with my family

Finally, the weather improved, the mate got well, and the topgallant sail was set at last:

  • Monday 30 Wind SE with pasing clouds  the mate got well and able to do Duty  still vary cold  this day passed without a squall  Thomas told me there was a stranger on Deck  I did not know what he ment  he said the Topgalantsail [topgallant sail] was set the first time for three weeks

Homesick Betsey summed up the stressful month of March thusly:

  • Tuesday 31 Calm and clear PM Cloudy and cold  nothing goes right

Next blog in one week: Diary of Betsey Alexander, Part 2: Goin’ for Guano


  • United States Federal Census Records, Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine. Ancestry.com.
  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • The Diary of Betsey Alexander: September 25, 1856, to January 17, 1858. Arlene L. Bradbury, Village Press, before 2001
  • Deeds. Cumberland County Registry of Deeds
  • World Map with Continents Template. http://www.printableworldmap.net/
  • “A Singleness of Purpose” The Skolfields and Their Ships. Reynolds, Ermini S, and Kenneth R. Martin, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, 1987
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants. Charles Nelson Sinnett, Rumford Printing Company, 1905
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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A Note From the Teacher

In 2001, writer Susan Rayfield interviewed me about Brunswick’s Open Space and Recreation Task Force work to locate and catalogue the town’s cemeteries. Her articles appeared in both the Portland Press Herald and the Kennebec Journal and featured photos of Hartwell Little Yard. Not long after, I received a letter in the mail from my 4th and 5th grade teacher, Doris Parsons.

Hartwell Little Yard articles2001
17 March

Dear Barbara,

    I was most interested to read the article about your work and interest in the old cemeteries.
    My grandparents are buried in the River Road cemetery. Charles Frederick Owen, & Josephine – as well as his second wife.
    My mother and her four sisters as well were graduates of Brunswick High (Hawthorne School) – my mother in the class of 1892.
    My Aunt Annie lived in Auburn, fretted for years over the condition of the cemetery.
    The Boy Scouts did a great job in their clean up project.
    Keep up the good work.


Doris Parsons

Letters from Doris ParsonsI wrote back in my best Longfellow School penmanship and she sent another note with a few more facts about her grandparents.

 April 18

Dear Barbara,

        Thank you very much for your interesting note.
        I enclose only a few facts of my grandparents who are buried there but if I can give       you any more help or information, please let me know.

God bless ~

  • My grandparents on my mother’s side – Frederick & Josephine Owen
  • Frederick was one of 9 boys, all raised in the Owen Homestead on River Road – two of the other children were Philip & Howard.
  • Frederick died in 1907, at the age of 67.
  • He married Josephine Isabel Alexander, who died at age 33, having given birth to 6 children Mary, Annie, Minnie, Mabel (my mother), Hannah & Frank (5 days old when she died.)
  • Frederick married again and raised 5 more children. The only one I ever knew was Howard – his children, Harold, C. Frederick, Robert & Florence.

Philip Owen in Hartwell LittleMrs. Parson’s grandparents Charles Frederick (1838-1907) and Josephine (Alexander) Owen (1845-1879) are not the only members of her immediate family buried in Hartwell Little Yard. So are her great-grandparents, Jeremiah (1792- 1867) and Hannah Badger Owen (1798-1891), whose farm was side-by-side with that of son Charles Frederick, just south of the cemetery. Other Owens there include her great-uncles William S. (1820-1854) and Philip (1817-1910). Philip, in fact, lived some years with his much younger brother Charles Frederick. Philip, a painter, died in 1910 at age 92 and his may have been the last burial in Hartwell Little Yard.

Next Blog in two weeks: The Diary of Betsey Alexander


  • Ancestry.com (Census & Death Records)
  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine (also see https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx)
  • The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Desmarais, Barbara A., http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/index.html, 2014
  • Letters from Doris Parsons
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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