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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About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
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