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

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com 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 DrBronsonTours.com, 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

Sources:

 

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Father and Son Reunion

For more than 23 years, Roland Rush Sr. and his son Roland Jr. worked together at their company, Roland Rush Trucking. They were also neighbors, living on adjoining streets. They shared a name, a business, and a neighborhood, but they didn’t share a religion. Roland Jr. was Catholic; his father was not.

Roland Jr

When Roland Jr. died in 1986 at age 50, he was buried in St. John’s Cemetery.

Roland Sr and Jr

Though religious differences meant Roland Sr. couldn’t be buried near his son in St. John’s Cemetery, he did find a way to remain close. After his son’s death he bought a plot in Varney Cemetery on the other side of the chain link fence between the two cemeteries. He was buried there in 1998 when he died at age 85.

The first photo of the back-to-back headstones above shows Roland Sr.’s pink granite marker peaking out at the righthand edge of Roland Jr.’s larger and darker stone. The second photo shows the reverse perspective, with the son’s stone behind the father’s.

Father and son, reunited.

Varney Cemetery Tour: Join me Sunday, June 22nd, 2014, at 1 p.m. for a Pejepscot Historical Society History Walking Tour. I’ll share stories of the families who lived and worked in this area and are buried in Varney Cemetery, including The Unvarnished Truth About the Varney Sisters, The Family Man, and The Land of the Freemans — The Land of the Brave.

The tour is free for PHS members, $5 for non-members. Limited to 20 participants. FMI: http://pejepscothistorical.org/events. To register: (207)729-6606.

Next Blog in two weeks: Killed in Defense of His Daughter.

Sources:

  • Robert Ormsby interview, 2014
  • Times Record, April 3, 1986
  • Times Record, Aug. 2, 1998
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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In 1891 workers uncovered the earliest organized cemetery in Brunswick. The Brunswick Telegraph reported:

In moving the old boarding house that has stood so long on Mill Hill and digging for the foundation for the new Cabot mill, on Tuesday the workmen uncovered a few human bones, surrounded by what was evidently a rough coffin as pieces of mostly decomposed wood were found around them. Not all the bones of the human skeleton were found but what were there, were in an excellent state of preservation. There was nothing remarkable about them either in size or disposition. It is supposed that they were the bones of a soldier of Fort George who was buried just without the walls of the fort. The bones were deposited with the Pejepscot Historical Society.

Femur from Ancient Burying Ground, Courtesy of Pejepscot Historical Society

Femur from Ancient Burying Ground, Courtesy of Pejepscot Historical Society

The bones unearthed were an ulna from the lower arm and femur or thigh bone. But whose bones have been tucked away on a shelf at the historical society for almost 125 years? In 1930 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a commemorative plaque on a boulder outside an entrance to Fort Andross, listing the names of three men interred in our Ancient Burying Ground. They were Robert Dunning (c1704-1724), his brother Andrew, Jr. (c1700-1724), and Capt. Benjamin Larrabee (1697-1748).

Fort George Plaque

Andrew Dunning Sr. (1664-1736), his wife Sarah (Bond) (c 1665-bef.1736), and their five young adult sons immigrated to Brunswick, settling at Maquoit between 1717 and 1722.

In the summer of 1722, Native Americans burned down the wooden houses in Brunswick’s village center. Many settlers fled the town after these attacks or moved behind the stone walls of Fort George, but not the Dunning family. They remained and built a garrison at their farm at Maquoit.

But they couldn’t conduct daily life within the confines of their wooden garrison or the stone fort. They had to catch or grow food and secure supplies. The Androscoggin River was central to the lives of the settlers and Natives alike, as a source of fish to eat and as an avenue of transportation. The brothers Robert and Andrew Jr. were crossing the river at a place then called Mason’s rock when Native Americans attacked and killed them. The brothers were buried in the graveyard just outside the fort.

Androscoggin River NOAA 13293 e

Just a few years later, in 1727, Capt. Benjamin Larrabee and Mary Elithorpe (1705-aft.1749) married in Boston. The Pejepscot Proprietors had hired Larrabee to be their agent and to command Fort George.

Fort George from The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell

Fort George from The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell

And the fort is where the Larrabees, my 6th great grandparents, began married life, living in a “narrow house” within the fort walls where Mary gave birth to most of their nine children. After a decade there, the family settled in the New Meadows area where Larrabee continued his leadership role as one of Brunswick’s original selectmen. He was buried in the graveyard attached to the fort he had commanded.

Both the fort and its graveyard were used up until the late 1730s. The fort was eventually dismantled and the site covered with new buildings. By the time construction began on the new Cabot Mill, all traces of the fort and the Ancient Burying Ground had disappeared. Though the Dunning brothers and Capt. Larrabee were the most well-known of those buried there, we don’t know for certain that the bones unearthed in 1891 were from one of them. Other men and women must have been buried there, too. Since Capt. Larrabee, Andrew Dunning Sr., and others held slaves, it’s also possible the bones belong to one of the so-called “servants” and not a European colonist.

Modern science might help us learn more about the bones. Many of us in the Brunswick area are descended from these early colonists so our DNA might be useful in identifying the bones. The most practical route could be Y-DNA studies of men directly descended from the earliest male settlers whose surnames are listed under “Notes” below. Perhaps someday a historian will conduct such a study and we’ll have another name to add to the boulder outside Fort Andross.

Next blog in two weeks: Father and Son Reunion

Notes:

  • Ancient Burying Ground is a legal term meaning a private cemetery established before 1880. In Brunswick the term is usually associated with the graveyard outside of Fort George.
  • Early Brunswick Settlers 1717-1728: Beverly, Clough, Cochran, Cowell, Dunning, Eaton, Fleming, Fuller, Gardner, Gyles, Giveen, Haines, Hamilton, Hansard, Larrabee, Low, Malcolm, Mason, McFarland, McKenny, Miles, Mitchell, Norton, Savage, Smith, Stanwood, Stevenson, Stinson, Thompson, Thornton, Tregoweth, Trescott, Watts, White, Woodside.
  • Mason’s Rock is not listed on current maps of the Androscoggin River, nor on the older maps I have located so far.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com, various records
  • Brunswick Telegraph, April 30, 1891, page 3
  • They Changed Their Sky: The Irish in Maine. Michael C. Connolly, Editor, University of Maine Press; 1st Edition, 2004
  • 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 Quilted Invitation

Readers of this blog met the Desmarais family in the January 2014 post entitled “Chapters From the Family Plot.” “The Quilted Invitation,” which first appeared in the Maine Times “Back of the Book” in August 1997, took place just a few weeks after “Family Plot.”

ED_AP_MDThe Quilted Invitation

My mother-in-law and I performed the ritual many times over the nineteen years we lived together. First Marie Anne would fling open the trunk’s heavy lid. The she would remove a sheet-wrapped quilt and place it in my arms. She would carefully remove the wrapping and together we would unfold the quilt, inspect it, and then refold and rewrap it. As we did this with each of the nine quilts, Marie Anne would tell me how much she missed her mother Alphonsine, the quilts’ maker. She would tell me how much Alphonsine loved flowers and how hard she worked. Finally, when we had re-nestled the quilts in the small wooden trunk, Marie Anne would let the lid drop down hard. Always she concluded the sessions with the promise, “When I go, these are yours. You do what you want with them.”

My mother-in-law passed away at the age of 88. One month later I learned that the Pejepscot Historical Society just up the street needed Franco quilts for their collection. My husband, daughter and I decided to donate some of our quilts as a memorial to Marie Anne.

This time I performed the ritual alone and, instead of leaving the quilts in the attic, I draped them on every available surface in the living room. The three of us finally chose four that we could bear to give away: an exuberantly colored embroidered crazy quilt, another of two-inch pastel squares, a pinwheel design of browns and pinks, and a saw tooth pattern in pinks and white. These quilts made by Alphonsine Plourde Desrosiers were physical evidence that we Francos were an integral part of this community, that e worked here, cried here, loved and laughed here.

It was already dark the afternoon I carried Alphonsine’s well-worn coverlets from my home near the old textile mill where she had toiled and up the street to the Historical Society, next door to the home where she died. I walked a mere four blocks. The quilts journeyed through four generations.

PHS May 2014I stood on the museum’s front step trying to gather the courage to enter. I have lived in Brunswick all my life, my family has lived here for generations, and yet I was too intimidated to enter the building. I tried to imagine how the child Alphonsine might have felt standing at the entrance of the grand brick sea captain’s home on the corner of Park Row and Green Street, peering through an etched glass window into the elegant mansion. I couldn’t imagine it because, when French-speaking Alphonsine came to Brunswick from Quebec in the 1800s, she would have been welcome only as a servant girl. More than a hundred years ago she would have entered through the back door.

Later, inside the museum, the curator spread the four heavy quilts across a table and studied them. The museum could afford to care for only one. While she struggled to choose which quilt to keep, I pictured middle-aged Alphonsine at her sewing machine in the 1930s. Carefully, she pieced together triangles of brown and tan wool from husband Elzeard’s trousers and pink cotton from daughter Marie Anne’s dress. She briefly rested her eyes, gazing out her tenement window to the fort-like brick mill where she, her husband and their children were lucky to work.

Photo Courtesy of Pejepscot Historical Society

Photo Courtesy of Pejepscot Historical Society

The curator finally chose the pinwheel quilt. I gathered up the other three and trudged back home in the cold. I had expected to feel exhilarated. Finally, we Francos were a part of this institution. I only felt weary. As I walked I reflected on Alphonsine’s last years. I tried to envision how different Brunswick must have been with so many of the men off fighting the Second World War. Maybe the air was chilled and 70-year-old Alphnsine huddled under the still serviceable quilt. A widow now, she lived in daughter Marie Anne’s home on Green Street. Grandson Martin played at the foot of his memere’s bed while Marie Anne worked in her dress shop in the rear of the house. Alphonsine looked out her bedroom window and saw the rear of the Skolfield mansion. How ironic that her last view was of her quilt’s final home, for the Skolfield mansion is now the Pejepscot Historical Society.

When I paused at my own corner, I could see the former mill just down the street. Eighty windows were bright with light. High above, a spotlight on the building’s tower illuminated a fluttering American flag.

I asked Alphonsine from Quebec, “Did I do the right thing?” She didn’t answer.

I looked across the road to my home. Downstairs, the lights shone through the plate glass windows of my husband Marty’s music store. On the second floor a sliver of light escaped the closed curtain at the edge of our daughter Denise Marie’s bedroom window. Perhaps that sliver of light revealed the answer I sought. For me, Denise, Alphonsine’s great-granddaughter, represents each descendant of every Quebec immigrant. Perhaps Alphonsine’s quilt is this new generation’s invitation to enter through the front door.

Notes:  Seven of Alphonsine’s quilts now reside with her descendants.

Next blog in two weeks:  Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

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The Fabric of Community

In the part of Brunswick once called New Meadows, farmers milked cows, millers ground grain, masons laid bricks, and carriage makers fashioned iron wheels. These were the men. Bakers made bread, weavers spun cloth, butchers cut chickens, healers nursed the sick, and cooks fed the families and the workers besides. These were the women. And when the women socialized, still they worked, piecing quilts for the newlyweds among them.

1888 Purrinton QuiltIn 1888 twenty-two women and girls from New Meadows and Harpswell made a signature quilt for my great-great-grandmother Mary Jane (Farrin) and her husband, Daniel Gorham Purinton. Mary Jane gave it to daughter Grace upon her 1918 marriage to Ernest Emery Doughty. And on Thanksgiving 1945, at Pine View Farm where all three women then resided, Grace gave the quilt to her new niece Ruth (Davis), recently married to David Franklin Purinton.

And, when these New Meadows women and men were done with quilting and farming and everything else in daily life, many were laid to rest in New Meadows Cemetery.

I found ten of the quilt’s signatories in New Meadows Cemetery, which would have been visible from the Purinton homestead. Because the neighborhood families were so intertwined, at least six of the women were related. Beginning with Mary Jane, these were:

Agnes Given Marriner grave

  • Mary Jane (Farrin) Purrinton (1862-1942)
  • Agnes Given (Marriner) Farrin (1830-1911), her mother
  • Flora Ellen Purrinton (1850-1927), her sister-in-law
  • Ada Paulina (Purrinton) Holbrook (1855-1933), her sister-in-law
  • Paulina Sybil (Marriner) Purrinton (1822-1896), her mother-in-law
  • Lettie (Marriner) Woodward (1824-1910), her husband’s aunt

And when the  New Meadows neighborhood and its connections to the Harpswells was ended, the farm buildings were razed or burned. The people moved to other neighborhoods, even other towns, and New Meadows disappeared.

New Meadows Cemetery April 2014Still, every time I visit New Meadows Cemetery I feel as if I’m among my family, where they lived and worked and loved. That’s because in the days before cars, when one’s place of work was the family farm or the gristmill by the brook, neighbors became family and family became neighbors. If you want to know your ancestors, go to the place they are buried. You may find their friends. You may find their kin. And, along the way, you may find yourself.

Notes:

  • Daniel Gorham Purrinton’s generation spelled “Purrinton” name with 2 “r’s” but subsequent generations spelled the name “Purinton.”
  • Mary Jane also signed a quilt square.
  • The Naval Air Station Brunswick encompassed nearly 90% of the original thousand-acre Town Commons and expanded further into the New Meadows neighborhood after World War II.

Sources:

  • Ruth (Davis) Purinton interview
  • New Meadows Cemetery, Purinton Road, Brunswick, Maine
  • Purinton family photos in possession of Barbara A. Desmarais
  • Purinton genealogy by Barbara A. Desmarais
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Frances, Is That You?

I’d like to think I’ve found Frances.

Our search for her began earlier this April when Brunswick’s Town Planner, Anna Breinich, came across a 7 ½-by-11-inch marble grave marker, hand-chiseled with the name “Frances.” Found in the Stowe House and stored in the Municipal Building since 1979, no one knew who Frances was or where the stone belonged.

Frances stone with rulersIn three previous blogs I listed results of deed, vital record, cemetery transcription and other historic resource research, which I whittled down to sixteen likely gravesites for her.

And this week you, dear Readers, sent in your thoughts regarding Frances. One reader wondered if she had been visiting family in Brunswick at the time of her death. Two others reminded me that this headstone might not have been for a person, but for a favorite horse or pet buried at home. Marble, being softer than granite, would have been a good choice for the 1800s when engraving was done with a handheld chisel and hammer. Does that mean the stone could have been fashioned at home by someone skilled with hand tools? If so, could the somewhat amateur status of the carver be why the stone turned out slightly asymmetrical and without a death date? Lending further credence to the favorite-horse theory is a local resident’s knowledge of one such burial on Park Row.

Nevertheless, this week I searched for a human Frances in Pine Grove, Varney, and Maquoit cemeteries. I looked for family plots containing first-name markers, paying particular attention to the possibility of updated stones, and for family plots that had no marker for their Frances.

Out of the sixteen sites, there was one that seemed made for Frances’s headstone. It was a plot belonging to the Harmon family in Pine Grove Cemetery. In this plot are headstones (one on far left, space, then three to right)  for

  • Abner H. Harmon (1830-1876), son of William and Elizabeth W. Harmon
  • Freddie H. (1852-1853), son of Abner H. and Frances L. (Owen) Harmon
  • Priscilla (1774-1851), wife of Johnson Harmon
  • George Lamb Harmon (1831-1834), son of William and Elizabeth W. Harmon.

Abner Harmon et al Pine GroveThe photo shows an empty space between Abner and son Freddie that is easily large enough for four more graves. The family lived in the right place, too. William Harmon is listed in an 1849 deed as an abutter of the Stowe House property where Frances’s marker was found. Before his death in 1876, Abner H. Harmon (baker) lived on Bank St. After his death, Frances and their two sons, John C. (harness maker) and William A. (hairdresser), lived on School St. You may recall that a Baptist meeting house on Franklin and a possible ancient burying ground on Stetson would have been very near Frances’s home.

But, Frances (1833-1915), daughter of Samuel and Catherine (Dickinson) Owen, isn’t buried in Pine Grove. By the 1900 census she and her son John (gardener) were living in Lancaster, Mass. She died in Clinton, Mass., and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery there.

The 1900 census also noted Frances had three living children but had given birth to ten. Since only four children are listed in various records, I think it’s very possible that Abner and Frances had a daughter named Frances who died young and is buried in the family plot. In addition, the asymmetry of her marker is a perfect match to the slightly skewed shape of Freddie’s, her would-have-been brother. Though Freddie’s is fancier, it certainly could have been made by the same person, perhaps for the same family.

Freddie Harmon Pine GroveTo confirm my hunch I contacted local historian, John Cross, who holds records for Pine Grove Cemetery, hoping his listings would show a Frances Harmon in that plot. Unfortunately, his records matched the four headstones currently on the site. Does this mean Frances is still lost? Maybe not. The Pine Grove inventory was compiled from tombstone inscriptions in the 1920s or ‘30s. If Frances’s marker had been removed prior to those dates, it wouldn’t be on the inventory.

So, what happens next? I will take the stone to the Pejepscot Historical Society the Collections Committee to consider for accession. If Frances is allowed to rest at the historical society, I’ll deposit my research there to give a head start to other sleuths and historians. Perhaps a junior high class or history buff will take on the task of compiling additional Franceses using deeds, church and vital records, historical resources, and cemetery data from books, online sources, and site visits.

Whether or not we ever truly learn Frances’s identity, we already know this: she is elusive, mysterious, intriguing. And someone cherished her enough to memorialize her in stone.

 Sources:

  • Massachusetts Death Index 1901-1980, Ancestry.com
  • U.S. City Directories, 1821-1929, Ancestry.com
  • United States Federal Census Records, 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
  • Brunswick Cemeteries, Brunswick, Maine, Maquoit Yard Cemetery, etc., Cheetham, Donald, and Mark Cheetham, Richmond, Maine, 2004
  • Pine Grove Cemetery, Bath Road, Brunswick, Maine, Vol. I & II., Ibid, 2005
  • 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
  • Page Monuments, Brunswick, Maine
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