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.
  • 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. Photocopied by Arlene L. Bradbury, Pownal, before 2001
  • Deeds. Cumberland County Registry of Deeds
  • World Map with Continents Template.
  • “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


  • (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
  • The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Desmarais, Barbara A.,, 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
Posted in Brunswick History | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Were Hartwell-Little?

And what was their yard?

If you hang a right onto River Rd. at the Pleasant St. intersection and proceed just over a mile and a half, you’ll arrive at a good-sized older cemetery fronted by a wooden post-and-rail fence. Above the open center gate is a sign proclaiming this to be “Hartwell-Little Yard Cemetery [sic].”

Hartwell Little signAbout 15 years ago the cemetery was vastly overgrown, prompting a local Boy Scout troop to remove brush and downed branches, mow the graveyard, right and clean the stones, paint the fence, and build the signage.

So, who were Hartwell-Little and what kind of yard did they operate?

Farm Across from Hartwell Little YardIt turns out yard is a shortened version of graveyard and Hartwell Little (1837-1929) was a farmer from Whitefield who purchased the farm surrounding the cemetery in 1866. He lived there with his first wife Lovesta (King) (1838-1905), and later his second wife, Naomi (Edgar) (1855-1919). Little was a farmer who also served as Brunswick’s state legislator in 1874. None of the three is buried in this cemetery, however. Little and Lovesta are buried in Whitefield; Naomi is buried in Post Falls, Vermont.

There is at least one member of the Little family in this graveyard; Little and Lovesta’s granddaughter, Mabel Melissa (1896-1900), daughter of their son Charles, is buried there in an unmarked grave.

Older records at Pejepscot Historical Society list additional names for the cemetery: Dunlap-Owen Cemetery, Toothaker Yard, and River Road Cemetery. Though Little doesn’t appear on any gravestone in the cemetery, the names Dunlap, Toothaker, and Owen do. And, just as Little was an owner of the property, so were John Dunlap, John Toothaker, Roger Toothaker, and John Owen II. But none of them has a headstone there, either.

Stone Monument Hatwell Little YardThe only previous owner of the land abutting the cemetery whose name was actually engraved on a monument is Solomon Stone (1791-1850) from New Brunswick, Canada, who bought the property from John Owen in 1836. He, his wife Abagail [sic] (Brockway) (1794-1834), and their daughters Alice (1832-1850) and Abigail A. (1820-1851), wife of Capt. George W. McManus. Also buried in Hartwell Little Yard is the Stone’s granddaughter, Alice McManus (1851-1851) who died at 6 months of age, 3 months after her mother.

Next blog in two weeks: A Note From the Teacher


  • Helene Bisson
  • Brunswick Cemeteries, Brunswick, Maine, Adams Cemetery, etc., Cheetham, Donald, and Mark Cheetham, Richmond, Maine, 2004
  • Kennebec Journal, March 10, 2001
  • Pejepscot Historical Society
  • Portland Press Herald, March 8, 2001
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
Posted in Brunswick History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You’ve Got Questions; We’ve Got Answers

Brunswick’s African American History

This week I’m answering two questions I’m asked whenever I share Brunswick’s 18th and 19th century African American history.

How did African Americans get to Brunswick?

The first African Americans who arrived in Brunswick in the 1700s were slaves, usually of ministers, merchants, and military officers. For instance, Capt. Benjamin Larrabee, commander of Fort George, held a slave named Pompey who served in the local militia in Brunswick and received the same wages as the other soldiers.

After the Revolutionary War, slavery was deemed illegal in Massachusetts and Maine. Entire families of “servants for life” came to Maine. These included the Lydia Freeman family who would settle in Bowdoin and Brunswick. Lydia’s son, John, and Leah Griffen, both of Brunswick, registered their marriage intentions March 24, 1781.

In the First Census of the United States, taken in 1790, Brunswick counted 1357 free whites and 38 “other free persons.” The “other” category would have included both Native Americans and African Americans.

Mahitable and Pamelia HeustonFully one quarter of early 19th century mariners were African American. Some of these sailors settled in Brunswick after arriving in the port city of Bath or nearby Wiscasset. Such was the case of Francis Heuston, who continued to work aboard coasting ships while also becoming a successful farmer in East Brunswick.

Many Maine families in the shipping industry had both business and familial connections with plantation owners in the south, which brings us to another way African Americans found their way to Brunswick – escaping enslavement. In 1850, Heuston and his wife Mahitable were instrumental in one such escape, harboring Clara Battease who fled her southern owners

So where are these African Americans now?

The 19th century African American population of Brunswick peaked around 1850, at about 50 out of a total population of 4977. Some families moved to other states where jobs were more plentiful, particularly after the Civil War, but others remained. Lydia Freeman’s descendants live in Brunswick today, the 10th generation to do so.

The African roots of some of Brunswick’s residents have faded from view. Though both Massachusetts and Maine had various laws prohibiting the marriage of blacks and whites, the marriages occurred regularly. Intermarriage is evident for one local African American family whose race was recorded as black in the earliest census in which they appeared, then evolved to mulatto, and finally to white.

To learn more about Maine’s rich African American history from colonial days to the present, read Maine’s Invisible Black History.

Next blog in two weeks: Who Were Hartwell-Little?



  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • 1790 Alphabetical Census for Brunswick. Transcribed by Judy Husman, Curtis Memorial Library
  • Maine Memory Network: Peopling Maine 
  • Town of Brunswick 1724-1910. CD, Picton Press, Rockland, ME, 2005
  • Maine’s Visible Black History. Price, H. H., and Gerald E. Talbot, Gardiner: Tilbury House, 2006
  • 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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The Forgotten Patriot

Luke Nickerson (1743-1829) married Hagar Cousins in Harpswell, Maine, in 1772. Three years later, the colonies were in an uproar, declaring civil war against England. On January 15, 1777, Nickerson enlisted in Reed’s Company, one of six men from Harpswell to do so.

That autumn, Private Nickerson was wounded in the thigh by a musket ball at the surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, N.Y. He continued to fight, despite his wound. Later taken prisoner, possibly at the Battle of Rhode Island in August of 1778, he was one of the first cartel of British prisoners returned from Rhode Island in January, 1779. That February he was confirmed to be at Cherry Valley, N.Y. He mustered out at the end of his three-year enlistment, in January of 1780.

SAR Flag Holder

Nickerson returned home to Hagar. It seems that they continued with life as usual, possibly having children. By 1818, when he applied for a war veteran’s pension he and Hagar were living in a log house in Brunswick, Maine. The application tells us their household consisted of the Nickersons and an eight-year-old boy, possibly a grandson. Nickerson, then about 74, was a laborer, unable to work consistently due to age and the lingering effects of the musket ball wound. Hagar, 66, had rheumatism but was able to work some. Their only asset was one cow; they did not own the land on which they lived. Nickerson was granted the pension.

Luke Nickerson was just one of many Maine men who fought in the Revolutionary War. What makes his story particularly compelling is that he was also one of the many African American soldiers and sailors who fought later in the war, despite British offers of freedom to any slave who fled to Nova Scotia and joined with the Loyalists. If the British won the war, Patriots would not gain their freedom. Even more compelling is that Nickerson enlisted at the beginning of 1777, a full year before Massachusetts, of which Maine was a part, made it legal to recruit African Americans to military service.Luke Nickerson headstone applicationHe died on May 4, 1829. Tradition has it that he was buried where he died, on an embankment overlooking Bunganuc Brook. His grave was marked by a simple fieldstone and Nickerson was seemingly forgotten.

Luke Nickerson Headstone

This was not the case, however. He appeared on the Brunswick Town Clerk’s veteran cards and farmers who owned the Bunganuc Brook property over the years knew exactly who was buried at the edge of their farm. In 1930, a full century after Nickerson died, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution applied to the U.S. War Department to have a veteran’s headstone placed on the site, where it still resides. The current property owners take great pride in seeing that Nickerson’s gravesite is respected and that he is remembered.

Next blog in two weeks: You’ve Got Questions; We’ve Got Answers


  • U.S. War Department Application for Headstone
  • Black Courage 1775-1783. Greene, Robert Elwell, 1984
  • Veterans Records. Brunswick Town Clerk’s Office
  • Vital Records: Harpswell, Maine; Marriage Records: Book 1. copied by Chadbourne, Ida N., North Baldwin, Maine, 1904
  • An Alphabetical Index of Revolutionary Pensioners Living in Maine. compiled by Flagg, Charles Alcott, Reprint from Sprague’s Journal of Maine History, Dover, Maine 1920
  • Interview with former area resident Robert Galloupe
  • Growstown Cemetery Records. copied by Harmon, Mrs. Fred, 1938    
  • Revolutionary War Graves Register CD, © 1993-2000. National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
  • New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Maine Estate Schedules  from Revolutionary War Pensions [continued], vol 142, 1988
  • Harpswell in the American Revolution. Thomas, Miriam Stover, 1976
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus, MD and Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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Killed in Defense of His Daughter

If you’ve ever been to New Meadows Cemetery on Purinton Rd. you’ve probably seen the red granite marker engraved “KILLED IN DEFENCE OF HIS DAU.” and wondered what exactly happened to Joseph Crockett. If you’re like me, you might have gone so far as to look in Brunswick or Bath newspapers for a 1910 obituary and come up empty handed.

Joseph Crockett

Now, thanks to a newspaper article posted on the website, we know that by 1910 the Crockett family had moved from Maine to Florida. We also know how Joseph Crockett died:

St. Augustine Record
June 12, 1910
One is Brained; Two are Shot
Tragic Result of Affray in North End of County.
Jos. Crockett Shoots Daughter and Son-in-Law and is Killed in Self-Defense.

Brained with an axe by his son-in-law, Charles Tappin, in whom but a moment before he had buried two bullets from a pistol, Joseph Crockett is dead, his son-in-law is seriously and perhaps fatally wounded and his daughter is suffering from two bullet wounds. The tragic affray occurred in the Switzerland neighborhood in the northern end of the county late Saturday afternoon. The killing of Crockett was in self-defense.

News of the crime was received in St. Augustine yesterday and Coroner Mackey and Deputy Sheriff Joe Apler hurried to the scene and spent the day there on the case. A coroner’s jury with Gregg Carrera as foremen was summoned by Judge Mackey and an inquest was held over the remains of Crockett and the entire tragedy was thoroughly investigated. The jury, without hearing Tappin at all brought in a verdict that Crockett came to his death by the use of an axe or some other blunt instrument in the hands of Tappin but in self-defense. Accordingly Tappin was not held for the killing. The jury was not secured from the immediate neighborhood but was drawn from some miles distant in order that there might be no possible chance of prejudice.

From the evidence that was submitted it appears that there has long been bad feeling between Crockett and his son-in-law. This has existed ever since Tappin married Crockett’s daughter about two years ago, Crockett endeavoring at that time to have the marriage annulled.

Crockett is understood to have received a letter from his daughter on Saturday but the contents of this were not made known. That afternoon he engaged F. E. Pacetti to drive him over the long distance to Switzerland. He acted a little strange all of the time but did nothing to especially arouse any suspicions in the mind of Mr. Pacetti.

When they reached the outside of the Tappin home Crockett left Mr. Pacetti and the team and disappeared around an old house that stands in front of the home. But a few moments later Mr. Pacetti heard five shots fired in rapid succession and followed by a woman’s scream. The tragedy had been enacted by the time he reached the spot.

From the evidence it appears that Tappin’s children came into the house and told him that they had seen a man skulking about outside. He went out and looked under the house but saw no one, but as he turned to reenter the house he came face to face with Crockett standing in the doorway with a pistol in his hand. He immediately opened fire and one shot struck the younger man over the heart, but glanced up slightly while another struck him on the head through not in such a way as to inflict a mortal wound. Mrs. Tappin was standing by her husband and two of the bullets grazed her, one on her arm and another on the neck. Both are only flesh wounds.

Tappin, though desperately wounded, closed with his assailant and in the mix-up succeeded in wrenching his pistol from him and striking him over the head. They then reeled over near the wood pile and Tappin dropped the pistol and secured the axe and crushed in the entire right temple of Crockett’s skull. Death must have been instantaneous.

Tappin is well known and respected throughout the northern end of the county. He is a hard-working and industrious farmer and is held in high esteem by his neighbors. Crockett has for some time been employed as a street cleaner in St. Augustine.

-end of St. Augustine Record article-

What was in the letter the former Emily Crockett wrote to her father? Why did he try to have her marriage to Charles annulled? Census information provides clues but no answers:

In 1900, Charles Tappin was a married man from Barbados. He worked in the kitchen of a hotel in Portland, Maine. He lived with other workers in the hotel, without his wife. Joseph and Georgia Crockett and their 5 children lived in Brunswick, Maine, where Crockett was a farm laborer. One of the children was an 8-year-old daughter whose name may have been Amny or Nancy.

In 1910, Tappin and the Crockett family all lived in Florida. Tappin was a 38-year-old farmer, married to 18-year-old Nancy. The marriage was the second for Tappin and the first for Nancy. There were three children in the household, two girls ages 7 and 9, and an infant named Charles. The Crocketts had only 2 children at home. Crockett was a laborer for the city of St. Augustine.

In 1920, the Tappins were still together. The 2 older girls had left home, but 4 younger siblings remained. Mrs. Tappin’s first name was Emily, but she and her parents were born in Maine. Perhaps she chose to use her middle name after the death of her father. One of her brothers was married with a family of his own and living in Florida. Though her mother, Georgia, lived until 1965, she didn’t appear as Georgia Emma Crockett in the 1920, -30, 0r -40 censuses available on-line.

We don’t know if Crockett objected to the 20-year age difference between Charles and Nancy/Emily. We don’t if Crockett was upset by the way Charles treated her. We don’t even know what happened to Georgia Crockett after her husband was killed. We only know that someone believed Joseph Crockett died trying to protect his daughter.

Next Blog in two weeks: The Forgotten Patriot



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