TIMES CHANGE

As promised, this week I’m posting a 1901 article from the Brunswick Telegraph. I have corrected spelling or punctuation as needed for easier reading. Next Saturday I’ll post the results of my deed research for 63 Federal Street, otherwise known as the Stowe House, as well as an interesting note from long-time Stetson Street resident and historian, Priscilla Davis.

TIMES CHANGE
And Customs With Them

In the early part of the past century funeral services were very different from what they are at the present time. The first funeral the writer attended in 1817 was that of a young lady who was our summer district schoolteacher. She died of a fever at the home of her parents. When we entered the house of mourning the coffin containing the corpse was on a table at the side of the room, sever tumblers, a sugar bowl, teaspoons and a pitcher of water. As the neighbors entered the room the men would resort to the table to pour out a quantity of the liquor, sweeten it and drink it while standing near the corpse. In a few cases their wives would do the same.

There were no hearses as at the present day. The corpse was taken to the place of burial on a bier carried by four bearers and the mourning relatives followed on foot in a procession of two and two. The biers were made of spruce poles, for the occasion, in the form of a ladder about eight feet in length. There were tow sets of bearers. When the pall bearers became fatigued carrying the corpse the other four bearers would take their places to relieve them. The biers would be left standing over the grave and frequently half a dozen or more might be standing in the cemetery.

The only article owned by the town used at funerals was the pall. When not in use it was left in the care of the clergyman’s wife. It was a black cloth, eight feet in length and four feet wide and was used to cover the coffin while on its way to the graveyard.

The first hearse used in our village was purchased by the town about 1824. An article had been in the town warrant for several years previous. “To see if the town would raise money to purchase a hearse,” but was rejected on account of the expense. The first time the new hearse was used was at the funeral of Dr. Isaac Lincoln. Its cost was about $900 I think. The cemetery previous to 1826 was on Maquoit road, nearly two miles from the village.

Many people who did not own lots in the cemetery were buried on the brow of the hill, where Stetson St. is now located. The writer remembers of seeing a funeral procession from Mill street on their way to this place of burial. The sexton was conveying a small coffin under his arm with his shovel on his shoulder and the relatives of the child followed on foot.
As late as 1825 it was the custom of funerals to have a dinner provided of which the relatives partook after their return from the burial.

Not many years since one of our aged and respected physicians in addressing a temperance meeting told his audience that when he was young people thought a child could not be born or a person buried without rum. He said that rum was perfectly useless in any disease, and he wished it all destroyed and its manufacture prohibited. A few moths following I was called by a neighbor to assist hi in taking up his father, who was sick with a fever, to have the bed cloths changed. While doing so he fainted and his son thought he was dying and sent for the aged physician. When he arrived at the sick room his patient had revived and he was told the cause of his being sent for. He told us never to attempt to get a person as sick as his patient was up without first giving him a spoonful of brandy.

M

Notes:

  • Spelling was corrected and commas added for easier reading.
  • The cemetery on Maquoit Road was the First Parish Cemetery. In Brunswick’s early history, only the downtown portion of the street was known as Main(e) Street, the rest being called Maquoit Road.

Sources:

  • Brunswick Telegraph, March 27, 1901, page 1
  • 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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Finding Frances

When Brunswick’s Director of Planning and Development, Anna Breinich, recently packed to move to the new town offices on Union Street she came across an unusual item: an eight-by-twelve inch tombstone engraved with the name Frances. A note on the bottom of the marker indicates it was found at the Stowe House in 1979. There’s a chip on the bottom right hand corner, the chiseled shoulders at the top of the stone are not quite symmetrical, and there is a large crack on the back.

Image

And so the mystery begins. Who was Frances? When did she die? Where is she buried? Why was her marker in the Stowe House? Was it stolen and hidden away or was it replaced with a new one? Did she or her survivors live at 65 Federal St? Or was there a burying ground in that area sometime in the past?

Who was Frances? A search of the Historic Preservation Survey cards at Pejepscot Historical Society for 65 Federal St., site of the Stowe House, yielded the names of two previous owners and a handful of occupants. There was one Fanny, a nickname for Frances. She was Fanny (Davis) Hall, who married William Hall in 1808. The Wheeler brothers’ 1878 history of Brunswick lists four William Halls. A more thorough deed search might reveal other families with a Frances.

When did Frances die? Ancestry.com yielded no results for Fanny Hall, our only current possiblity. Where is she buried? She wasn’t listed in online records for First Parish, Maquoit, Growstown, and Pine Grove Cemeteries.

Was Frances’s stone replaced by her family, perhaps because of the crack on the back or the imperfection of the original carving, the old stone being relegated to the barn? There is precedence. Years ago when a damaged stone of a young woman buried in nearby Pine Grove Cemetery was replaced, the discarded stone was used as a paver in the walkway in another yard on Federal St.

Perhaps Frances hadn’t lived at 65 Federal St. but had instead been buried in the area. A March 27, 1901, Brunswick Telegraph account of local funeral and burial customs in the early 1800s states:

Many people who did not own lots in the cemetery (First Parish Cemetery) were buried on the brow of the hill, where Stetson St. is now located.

Map

Stetson St. connects to Jordan Ave. (formerly Pearl St.) at the brow of a hill. It is possible there was an ancient burying ground in the vicinity.

How will we solve the mystery of Frances and return her tombstone to its proper place? This month, instead of posting only on the first Saturday, I’ll post updates each of the following three Saturdays. These will include:

  • The complete Brunswick Telegraph article on early funeral services and burials
  • Analysis of site studies performed for Stowe House owner, Bowdoin College
  • Deed research
  • Suggestions from our readers

So, dear Reader, please leave your comments and suggestions on the blog or Facebook pages. Frances is waiting.

Notes:

  • Thompson Street is now known as School Street (with thanks to Priscilla Davis)
  • Jordan Avenue was formerly known as Pearl Street
  • Ancient Burying Ground is a legal term meaning a private cemetery established before 1880

Sources:

  • 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 Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Desmarais, Barbara A., http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/index.html, 2014
  • Historic Preservation Survey. Goff, John, et al. Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta, Maine, circa 1980
  • Maine Revised Statutes, Title 13, Chapter 83: Cemetery Corporations, 1101-A. Definition. http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/13/title13ch83sec0.html
  • 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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It Happened in 1916

I’m always on the lookout for gravestones with variations of my mother’s maiden name, Purinton. I was particularly intrigued by a Maquoit Cemetery stone for a Purington family on which seven of the eight death dates were 1916.

Hiram PuringtonI speculated that the family died of the flu or in a house fire. Trouble is, the flu pandemic was in 1918 and ’19, at the end of World War One. I scoured the 1916 Brunswick Record for information, but found nothing – no fire, no death notes. My own genealogy files didn’t list this family on any of our distant branches. So, I tucked away the puzzle for several years.

Recently I went to my old standby, Ancestry.com, a subscription genealogical database. There I found the story of Hiram Purington and his family.

Hiram L. Purington, a painter, was the son of Charles W. and Maria (Wheeler) Purington. Charles was a farmer in West Bath; Maria died when Hiram was only nine. In the summer of 1896 in Boston, Mass., Hiram married Ina B., a daughter of Andrew and Mary E. (Gould) Gallaway of Gardiner. They made their home on Crescent St. in Bath.

Two years later they had their first child, Lucy. I have to wonder if Ina struggled in her pregnancy or if Lucy had a difficult birth for Brunswick town records list a payment to G. M. Elliott for medical attendance on family’s behalf.

By 1914, the family had increased to nine – both parents and seven children. I picture them living in close quarters, barely subsisting on a painter’s wages, colds and other viruses passing from one child to the next. In November of that year, the family lost both their eldest and their youngest children, sixteen-year-old Lucy and seven-month-old Ernest.

It seems as though the family never recovered their health, for in 1916 the deaths came one right after the other. Lillian, age nine, died in January, Father Hiram and five-year-old Herman on July 13th, Mother Ina in September. Baby Purington died without having been named.

Though their grave marker indicates otherwise, three siblings remained: Mary, Maria Frances, and Violet. They, too, would die: Thirteen-year-old Mary in West Bath in February of 1918 and Maria Frances in the Augusta State Hospital, April. Finally, Violet died in Hebron in July 1919.

Lucy Ellen Purington (1898 – 6 Nov 1914)
Ernest L. (Nov 1914 – 10 May 1915) 7 mos.
Lillian Bestroe Purington (27 Jan 1907 – 23 Jan 1916)
Herman Purington (1911 – 13 July 1916)
Hiram L. Purington (17 Apr 1871 – 13 July 1916)
Ina B. Gallaway (c 1878 – 11 Sep 1916)
Infant Baby Purington (1916 –1916)
Mary E. (1 Jan 1905 – 16 Feb 1918)
Maria Frances Purington (18 Dec 1902 – 5 Apr 1918)
Violet Rose Purington (4 Jun 1908 – 12 July1919)

I found no death certificates for Herman and Infant Purington. But baby Ernest died from bronchial pneumonia. The rest of the family, beginning with Lucy and ending with Violet five years later, died of pulmonary tuberculosis.

I don’t know who bought their modest headstone. Perhaps it was Charles. I can well imagine him struggling to compile names and dates for his only son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. And because someone did that, we know they lived.

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Revealing Hidden Stories

Brunswick has a baker’s dozen of small family burying grounds or single graves on private property. These hidden burying places represent stories of historical and sociological importance. One such story is that of Francis and Mahitable Heuston.

Francis Heuston (1765-1858) was born on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. As a boy during the Revolutionary War, he served on an armed vessel, and continues as a sailor afterward. He settled in the Bath-Brunswick area around 1800 and worked on vessels sailing supplies up and down the coast.

In 1806 he married native-born Mainer, Mahitable (Griffin) Swain (1781-1851). The young widow brought four children to the marriage. Together they would have another eight. In 1811 Heuston bought 20 acres of farmland in East Brunswick and he sometimes facilitated real estate transactions for his African American neighbors.

What make the Heustons’ story particularly significant are their actions in support of their anti-slavery views. Before the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, a network of citizens from all walks of life, helped escaped slaves complete their journeys to freedom. Brunswick was an active way station for escaped slaves and two of its most important conductors were Francis and Mahitable Heuston.

Francis Heuston was a member of the Bath Vigilance Committee that aided escaped slave, Paul, sending him by stage to reunite with his wife and children in Canada. More than once Francis and Mahitable used their own home as a way station. Bowdoin College professor William Smyth sent at least one escapee to them and in 1850 they harbored Clara Battease, who escaped a month before her daughter’s birth.

Mahitable Heuston gravestone blogMahitable died in 1851 at age 70 and was buried on their farm overlooking Merrymeeting Bay. After her death Heuston married former slave Clara, reborn as Mary Scott. Known for his intelligence, strong work ethic, and forthright character, Heuston voted in every election and was a community leader. On a late spring day in 1858, 94-year-old Heuston died planting his crops. He was buried next to Mahitable and their daughter Pamelia.

Francis Heuston restored stone blogYou might wonder why Francis and Mahitable risked their family’s safety by helping escaped slaves to freedom. Until, that is, you learn that Francis and Mahitable were African Americans. We don’t know if Francis was born into slavery or into Nantucket’s free black community, though his father’s name of Juba hints at slavery. Mahitable, born a free woman in Maine, may have been descended from the slaves that arrived with the earliest colonists when the wealthy, even in Maine, sometimes had black slaves.

Histories of abolition written by white authors often miss an important truth – that the Underground Railroad was operated first and foremost by African Americans, with assistance from sympathetic whites. As laundresses, hack drivers, railway workers, and household servants, African Americans had access to everything an escaped slave would need, including clothing, transportation, and shelter. It is a testament to Francis and Mahitable Heuston’s integrity and intelligence that they were respected by both the black and white communities of Brunswick and remembered long after they died. They will continue to be remembered. In 2013, in recognition of their work, the Heuston Burying Ground became part of the National Parks Service Network to Freedom, one of only two Maine places currently named in the Network’s national database of historically important Underground Railroad sites.

Sources:

  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • United States Federal Census Records, Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine. Ancestry.com
  • Massachusetts Vital Records. Ancestry.com
  • Brunswick Telegraph, June 4, 1858; June 11, 1858
  • A Small College in Maine: Two Hundred Years of Bowdoin. Calhoun, Charles C, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1993
  • Heuston Family Guest Book. copied by Bob Greene, Portland, Maine, 1974
  • John Furbish, Facts About Brunswick, Maine. electronic edition, transcribed by Jackie Young, Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, Maine; edited by Paul Dostie, Curtis Memorial Library, http://community.curtislibrary.com/CML/history/furbish/furbish.htm, 1976
  • Lewiston Journal Magazine. Aug. 24, 1912, pp1-2
  • Boston Vital Records; National Historical Genealogical Society
  • National Park Service Network to Freedom. http://www.nps.gov/subjects/ugrr/index.htm
  • Revolutionary War Graves Register. National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, CD, Copyright 1993-2000
  • Maine’s Visible Black History. Price, H. H., and Gerald E. Talbot, Gardiner: Tilbury House, 2006
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Chapters From the Family Plot

My mother-in-law, Marie Anne, often told me of those buried in her family’s plot: the handsome, fun-loving younger brother killed in a car crash; the aunt who passed while on a visit from Canada; her father who dropped dead of a heart attack on his way to church; and her beloved mother who lived her final years in Marie Anne’s home.

The final story was always this: one of her five sisters had charge of the money to supply their parents’ gravestone but misspent it. Their parents’ graves remained unmarked.

In her typical straightforward manner, she said that when she died she didn’t want to be laid out for others to see, nor did she want a funeral – just a graveside service with a priest and her closest family: son Marty, daughter-in-law Barbara (this writer), granddaughter DeDe, and favorite niece Lorette.

Marie Anne died at age eighty-eight after a life fully and gladly lived. When we called St. John’s to arrange her burial, we heard a story unknown to us: four of Marie Anne’s siblings and a cousin who died in infancy were also sheltered in the Desrosiers’ plot.

ED_AP_MDWe bought a modest headstone, gray granite after the rocks she collected wherever she traveled. Then we added a simple vine across the top, modeled after her favorite wallpaper border to please her, as well as her mother who loved flowers. Marty and I determined names and dates as best we could, then listed Marie Anne and her parents on one side of the stone and, thinking ahead to the next chapter, added our own names to the other side.

MRD_BBDFinally, on a mild September day, we gathered at her grave in St. John’s Cemetery to say good-bye to Marie Anne. And to say to those other family members who came before us, “We remember you. We honor you. You are with us – always.”

Marie Anne (Desrosiers) Desmarais (1907-1995)
Alphonsine (Plourde) Desrosiers (1878-1948) mother
Elzeard Desrosiers (1873-1945) father
Gonzaque Desrosiers (1911-1935) brother
Mrs. Louis (Cote) Desrosiers (1864-1929) aunt
Zepherin Desrosiers (1916-1917) brother
Monique Desrosiers (1913-1913) sister
J. Edmund St. Pierre (1908-1908) cousin
Elzeard Desrosiers (1905-1907) brother
Alida Desrosiers (1898-1900) sister

May they rest in peace.

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Would You Name Your Son After the Governor of Maine?

During my cemetery travels I’ve become acquainted with communities I might otherwise have missed. As I learn about people, I visit their gravesites and the neighborhoods where they lived to better understand their lives. One such group is Bath-Brunswick’s African A American community, which peaked in size in the 1850s.

One of the largest African American families was the Freemans. When I discovered Charles Freeman’s (1844-1906) farm had been on Pine Street and that he was buried in Varney Cemetery on the same street, I headed out to visit.

Freeman Obelisk VarneyThe farm is gone but the Freeman family grave monument remains. An Egyptian-style white stone obelisk, it lists two departed named Albion. K. P. Freeman. One (1836-1864)*, was Charles’ brother, a Union infantryman killed in action at Cold Harbor, Virginia, in the Civil War.  The other was Charles’ son (1867-1874).

I wondered why they had two middle names and what they might be. Knowing that given names often run in families, I researched the Freeman genealogy but found no earlier Albion on either side of the family.

Albion K. P. ElwellLater I came upon headstones in Maquoit Cemetery for four white men name Albion K.P. They were Albion K. P. Elwell (1824-1890), a paper mill worker from Mechanic Falls; two of his grandsons (1869-1932) and (1890-1959); and his great-grandson (1921-1970).

Since more than one generation of Freeman men had married white women, I expected to find a link between the two families—and perhaps the original Albion K.P. Though both families originated in Massachusetts, try as I might, I could not find a relationship between them. However, I did find more Brunswick men named Albion. K. P.

Who, then, was the man so respected by area families that they named their sons after him? He was Maine statesman Albion Keith Parris (1788-1857) who held many local, state, and federal offices. The naming trend began when he was elected as the 5th governor of Maine, an office he held from 1822 to 1827. In fact, families all across Maine used versions of the Governor’s entire name, Albion Keith Parris, adding a curious twist to many a family tree.

Notes:   *The tombstone lists an incorrect year of death.

Sources:

  • United States Federal Censuses, 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
  • Robert Elwell 16 Generations of Foot Prints in the Sand of Time,Crowley, lcrowley@suscom-maine.net (available at Curtis Library, Brunswick, Maine)
  • The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine, Desmarais, Barbara (webmaster), http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/
  • Peter and Jane (____) Freeman of Ipswich, Massachusetts, and their Descendants in Maine: An African-American Family, Giles, Bruno, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register and First Annual Supplement, American Ancestors Journal, volume 163 October 2009 Whole Number 652 and Volume 164 Jan 2010 Whole Number 653, www.NewEnglandAncestors.org
  • Governors of Maine, 1820-, Compiled by the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library, http://www.maine.gov/legis/lawlib/govs.htm
  • Maine’s Visible Black History, Price, H. H., and Gerald E. Talbot, Gardiner: Tilbury House, 2006
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The Man Who Died Twice

A tour bus stopped just outside Varney Cemetery’s fence. Though no sports were being played on that sunny weekday, I thought surely the riders who disembarked would walk to the nearby Bowdoin football field.

They didn’t.

Instead they headed directly to a large headstone that had obviously split in half and been repaired by the application of a marble backing. They had come to the final resting place of George Cobb (1794-1843, 1882).

George Cobb

The front of his stone is heavily engraved, headed by the fourth commandment, his birth in 1794, death in 1843, then death again in 1882, ending with the nineteenth psalm. A careful reading of Cobb’s tombstone shows a period after the year 1843.

The 1840 federal census of Brunswick, Maine, showed Cobb as the head of a household of eleven. In 1850 he was listed as a mason and head of a family of eight. Gerald Wheeler writes that Cobb was the “rough, swearing” foreman of a stone crushing and hauling operation that was building the railroad just north of Freeport.

One of his laborers was James White (1821-1881), an ordained minister in the “Christian Church.” “Christians” relied on the Bible to guide their lives. White and others evolved into early Sabbath-keepers, now known as Seventh-day Adventists.

Cobb was one of White’s early converts. On July 22,1842, Cobb and four other members were dismissed from the First Free-Will Baptist Society at Growstown in west Brunswick to organize the Christian Church in Brunswick and Freeport.

George Cobb date

It would seem that Cobb found fulfillment in his new church, for on Nov. 10, 1843, Cobb experienced a spiritual death and rebirth. His physical self would thrive nearly 40 years more, until he “fell asleep in the Lord.”

The tourists who visited Cobb’s grave that day were Seventh-day Adventists who had come to see the burial site of the man they name as one of their very first members.

Where’s George Cobb? Varney Cemetery, Pine Street, Brunswick: down aisle 5, on the right, past the Freeman obelisk

Sources:

  • The Seventh-Day Adventists: a history, Jordan, Anne Devereaux. New York: Hippocrene Books, c1988
  • The seventh day: the story of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Herndon, Booton. New York: McGraw Hill, c1960
  • James White: Innovator and Overcomer, Wheeler, Gerald. Hagerstown:Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2003
  • The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell: including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot, Wheeler, George Augustus, M.D. and Henry Warren Wheeler. Brunswick, A Mudge & Sons, Printers, 1878
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