McManus Women and Their Merry Men

New England Coast Library of Congress

New England Coast
Library of Congress

After the Revolutionary War, the first generation of Americans on River Road settled back into their daily lives of farming, shipbuilding and seafaring; marrying and raising families; and paying taxes. Massachusetts was deeply in debt after the war and looked to its northern districts for funds. By 1785, Mainers, both wealthy and poor, were assembling to express their desire for independence from Massachusetts.

Though England officially recognized American independence at the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the country continued to harass American merchant ships and to impress Americans into the British Navy. At the start of the War of 1812, another generation of Americans enlisted in the military to protect both their young country and their livelihoods. The danger to Brunswick-area residents was very real since our main mode of transportation was by boat and canoe, settlements having developed along our rivers, streams, and ocean. During the war, the English man-of-war The Rattler commandeered the fishing vessel of three Sinnett brothers from Bailey Island and used the boat to scout along the shores of Casco Bay. That war’s end in 1815 was celebrated as a second Independence Day, ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings.”

These good feelings didn’t extend to Maine residents, however. Since Massachusetts bankers had actually loaned the British money to carry out the war, residents had thought the area would be safe from serious damage during the war. However, in 1814 the British attacked, looted, and then occupied eastern Maine. Residents then expected aid from Massachusetts to retaliate against the British. Instead the state’s bankers refused to loan funds to the Federal government and the state government refused to send troops for the war effort.


Courtesy of

Finally, after almost 35 years of campaigning, Maine was granted independence by Massachusetts. The following year, 1820, the United States Congress passed statehood for both Maine and Missouri. The bill was known as the Missouri Compromise, which sought to maintain a balance between the number of free (Maine) and slave-holding (Missouri) states.

That year Brunswick began its own “Era of Good Feelings” which would last for the next 30 years. Covering almost 47 square miles of land, Brunswick had grown from a population of 1357 in the first census taken in 1790 to more that double, 2931, in 1820. The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell reported:

In 1820 there were more than twenty stores, well filled with goods, and numerous mechanic shops of different kinds. There were one hundred and twenty-five houses in the village, besides five hotels and five places of public worship.

Over the next 4 years, 64 buildings would be built in the village, including 23 “handsome dwellings,” 7 stores, and a plethora of “mechanic shops” (trades such as bricklayers, blacksmiths, coopers, and carpenters).

All the same, River Road, like most of Maine, remained rural and homogeneous. The marriageable men and women necessarily looked to their neighbors and family friends for partners. This may be why in 1828 and 1829, four granddaughters of James McManus (see Sins of the Father and Ann at the Crossroads) married four great-grandsons of Walter and Elizabeth (Potter) Merryman, early settlers of nearby Harpswell.

The Brunswick Town Clerk recorded these intentions of marriage:

  • May 29 1828, Marriage is intended between Mr John Merriman and Miss Elenor C McMannas both of this town
  • June 12 1829, Marriage is intended between Mr Enos Merryman & Miss Hannah McMannas both of this town
  • July 26 1829, Marriage is intended between Capt Thomas Merryman & Miss Almira McMannas both of this town
  • Augt 8 1829, marriage is intended between Capt Henry Merryman and Miss Catherine McMannas both of this town
McManus Merryman Family Tree cr

McManus Merryman Family Tree, © Barbara A. Desmarais, Nov. 20, 2015

All eight parties resided on River Road. Brothers John and Enos Merryman married sisters Eleanor and Hannah McManus, in 1828 and 1829 respectively. Then in short order, brothers Thomas and Henry Merryman married cousins Almira and Catherine McManus. The next 4 blogs will describe each couple’s journey.

Next Blog: John and Eleanor: From Cradle to Grave on River Road


  • United States Federal Censuses
  • 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 War of 1812.
  •, Ohio Mechanics Institute.
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine, and his descendants. Sinnet, Charles N., 1847-1928, Rumford Printing Co., Concord, NH, 1905.
  • The Library of Congress, Primary Documents of American History, The Treaty of Paris.
  • Ibid. Views from offshore of the New England coastline and islands at the entrance to Boston Harbor.
  • Ibid. On board the fishing boat Alden out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Seining boat being towed by the Alden
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
  •, Brunswick, Maine.,_Maine
  • The History of the State of Maine. Williamson, William D., Glazier, Masters & Co., Hallowell, 1832.
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Rocky Hill Revolution

River Road Farm Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2014

River Road Farm
Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2014

The previous blog, Alphabet Soup, described three footstones found at Cook Farm on the north side of River Rd. near the top of Rocky Hill in the 1930s with only initials and one date to identify the decedents:

S E , died 1830, age 71



That blog told of the Eaton family, including Samuel and Dorothy (Danforth) Eaton, who were known to have lived on River Road and may have been the SE and DE represented by the footers.

This blog is about the Eatons’ Rocky Hill neighbors Enoch Danforth (a possible ED) and John McManus, and their families.

Image courtesy Library of Congress

Image courtesy Library of Congress

At the conclusion of England’s almost century-long war with the Native Americans (1675-1760), Enoch (1727-?) and his wife, Dorcas (Hutchins), were among those newly arriving in the southern mid-coast of Massachusett’s District of Maine. In May of 1763 both were received into Brunswick’s First Parish Church from their previous church in Arundel, Maine. That same year, the Brunswick town clerk recorded Enoch’s log mark. He likely bought his 100-acre River Road farm that year, too. Genealogies list 10 children: Enoch Jr, Sarah, Joshua, Abigail, David, Deborah, Daniel, Mary, Paul, and Abner.

After the French and Indian War ended, the English treasury was sorely depleted; Parliament passed several new “navigation acts” to collect more revenues from the colonies. The New World settlers relied on the mother country for goods they could not manufacture themselves, purchasing one quarter of England’s industrial output. The higher cost of goods plus the difficulties of raising crops in Maine’s rocky soil threatened the precarious solvency of many Brunswick families. Enoch Danforth, a mariner, must have been adversely affected by each new reduction in his income for in 1772 he mortgaged his property to his next-door-neighbor, mariner Daniel Marquand.

Perhaps that is why in 1776 his sons Enoch Jr and Daniel enlisted in the Continental Army to fight the British, their former countrymen. Both brothers were at the Battle of Cherry Valley, NY, in 1778, where Enoch Jr was taken prisoner by British forces. Daniel returned to River Road the following year, but his brother wouldn’t come home for two more years.

Their father didn’t stand idly by. In 1779, at the age of 52, Enoch Sr served two months on the privateer Vengeance, on the Penobscot Expedition. One thousand colonial marines and militiamen, along with 100 artillerymen led by Paul Revere, fought the British from land at the mouth of the Penobscot River. A 44-ship rebel flotilla battled from sea. Though the Americans ultimately reclaimed the area, the Vengeance and most of the other privateers and warships were destroyed. The survivors of the Expedition, including Enoch Sr, trekked home on foot.

McManus Yard Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2015

McManus Yard
Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2015

The Danforth men weren’t the only River Road residents to fight in the American Revolution. They weren’t even the only ones at Cherry Valley. Halfway down Rocky Hill, on the south side of River Rd. is the McManus Family Yard*:

The website Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine describes the graveyard, also known as Rocky Hill Cemetery, as being halfway up Rocky Hill on the left side. The transcriptions include:

John McManus (1760-1843), his wife Elizabeth (McDaniel) (1760-1844), their son Harvey (1812-1873), and two grandsons: Thomas (1834-1837) and Harvey (1854-1858).

1777 Deed from John Chase to John McManus

1777 Deed from John Chase to John McManus

John was the eldest son of James and Mary (Corbett) McManus, Irish immigrants. His brother Robert was the subject of the post Sins of the Father. John was only 17 years old when he purchased his River Road farm next door to Enoch Danforth. Another brother, Daniel, also lived nearby.

Both John and Daniel served in the Continental Army along with Enoch Jr and Daniel Danforth. All four men were at the 1778 Battle of Cherry Valley, NY.

Brunswick Rev Vet Heading

Brunswick Rev Vet Annotated

Family tradition correctly states that John was wounded at Cherry Valley and received a lifelong pension. The 1840 Census of Revolutionary War or Military Pensioners showed only the McManus brothers still living in Brunswick. Daniel was either on his own or in Daniel Jr’s home, and John was with daughter Catharine and son-in-law Capt. Henry Merryman. Elizabeth McManus survived her husband John by a year, and continued to receive his pension after his death at age 84.

Daniel McManus, Elizabeth McManus, Daniel McManus Jr, Riverside Cemetery, Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2015

Daniel McManus, Elizabeth McManus, Daniel McManus Jr, Riverside Cemetery,
Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2015

When Riverside Cemetery opened at the foot of River Road and Pleasant St. in 1873, some monuments and bodies, as well, were relocated from McManus Yard to Riverside. This probably included Daniel McManus (1763-1851) and his son Daniel Jr. (1819-1842) since their monument, with its pre-1873 dates-of-death, is in Riverside.

The Danforth and McManus graves at Cook Farm, McManus Yard, and Riverside Cemetery are physical reminders that 250 years ago five English colonists from Brunswick, Maine, traveled down Rocky Hill to fight for control of their own destinies and came back home as Americans.

Next Blog: McManus Women and Their Merry Men

Notes: *Yard is a shortened version of graveyard.


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Alphabet Soup

Image from Collection of Barbara A. Desmarais

Image from Collection of Barbara A. Desmarais

The WPA entry for the three footstones still visible at Hazel Cook’s farm in the 1930s read:

GRAVESTONES on Hill back of COOK Farm, River Road,
Brunswick, Me. (Copied Evelyn Hennessey)

        S E                    D E                                   E D
died 1830              date obliterated              no date
ae 71

Approximately 12 or more graves unmarked.

Who were S E, D E, and E D? In a homestead burying ground such as the one at Cook Farm, decedents are connected by family or geographical relationships. Combing local marriage and historical records for the initials S E and D E yielded the 1780 marriage of Samuel Eaton (1759-1830) and Dorothy (aka Dolly) Danforth. Deeds showed several Eatons and Danforths living near each other on River Rd. beginning in the mid-1700s. These included Samuel and Dorothy Eaton, as well as Enoch Danforth, a candidate for E D. As we shall see, the Eaton family has deep roots in Brunswick.


In 1715 the Pejepscot Proprietors, owners of a great swath of land in southern and mid-coast Maine, offered men who enlisted as soldiers free passage by sloop from Boston to Brunswick and Topsham. Since the Proprietors expected the military service to be easy, in addition to wages, they would pay the soldiers 2 shillings a day to repair and maintain Brunswick’s stone fort. Further, once Fort George was completed, the Proprietors would engage the soldiers to split staves, shingles, or clapboards. After 6 months service, any soldier wishing to settle in either Brunswick or Topsham would be released from service (once his replacement arrived), and the soldier would then receive 100 acres to homestead. If, after a year of service, a soldier chose not to settle here, the Proprietors would petition for his discharge from military service.

Image from Wheelers'

Image from Wheelers’

Samuel Eaton from Salisbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was one of the first to arrive. Two of his sons, Samuel Jr and Moses, were soldiers attached to the fort overlooking the Androscoggin River. In 1722, these young men were players in the ongoing clash between colonists and the Wabanaki as the English continued to settle lands already occupied by native people.

That summer the Wabanakis retaliated for a previous English attack at Norridgewock by setting fire to Brunswick village, destroying it. They took some settlers prisoner, but “cruelly”* killed others. Survivors fled north to Fort George or south to the wooden garrison at Maquoit. When the Wabanakis retreated across the Androscoggin River to Pleasant Point in Topsham, Samuel Eaton Jr was sent to get help from Col. Harmon at “Arrowsick.”* He wrapped a letter from fort commander Capt. Gyles in eel-skin and hid the packet in his hair.

After dark that same night Harmon and his soldiers reached Pleasant Point by water, then slaughtered some 18 Wabanakis who were sleeping there. Those on guard returned fire, but didn’t wound any of the English soldiers.

However, at least one English soldier, Moses Eaton, had been captured by the Wabanaki during the English raid. When Harmon’s company returned to their whaleboats, they found Moses’ tortured and mutilated body. The soldiers buried their comrade at Pleasant Point.

Two more skirmishes between the English and natives occurred at Brunswick and Topsham before a 1726 treaty closed that particular Indian war.

By 1727, Samuel Jr had attained the rank of lieutenant and another Samuel (Samuel 3rd), possibly his son, was a sentinel at the fort. Samuel 3rd served in the militia until at least 1740. He died in 1742.

1802 Map of Brunswick and Topsham Villages from Wheelers'

1802 Map of Brunswick and Topsham Villages from Wheelers’

The Eaton family continued to grow, as did Brunswick. Despite the Indian Wars, the village that extended from the Androscoggin River south to Maquoit Bay expanded east to New Meadows, where Jacob Eaton homesteaded in 1737, and still later, west along the roads to Portland and Durham, where Daniel Eaton bought land in 1752. In 1757 Daniel Eaton and John Malcolm went to gather salt hay at Maquoit and “were waylaid by some Indians.”* John Malcolm escaped but Daniel was shot in the wrist, captured, and carried to Canada by Chief Sabattis. Daniel was sold there, but managed to return home the following year. Forty years later, when both Daniel and Sabattis were old men, they met once again when Sabattis passed through Brunswick. They chatted briefly but cordially, shook hands, and went their separate ways.

Just a year after Daniel escaped captivity, Samuel (1759-1830) was born, perhaps a son of Daniel. Whatever the relationship between the two men, the Eaton family of Brunswick continued to grow. The first United States census, taken in 1790, listed 4 Eatons as heads of households: Daniel, Daniel Jr., Moses, and Samuel. One Daniel may have lived at Maquoit, but the other three men resided near one another on the River Rd. Deeds of that era name several more Eatons. Unfortunately, the only clue as to relationships as one Eaton sold land to another Eaton was the use of “Jr” after some of the names.

In 1780, Samuel married Dorothy Danforth, possibly a daughter of Enoch and Dorcs (Hutchins) Danforth, who also owned land on River Rd. In 1798 Samuel bought 50 acres on the River Rd from his relative, Daniel. Over the next 3 decades Samuel mortgaged his land, paid his creditors, and mortgaged the land again: to William Stanwood Jr in 1799, Daniel Eaton Jr – 1800 and Daniel Eaton – 1805. In 1808 he repaid William Stanwood and re-mortgaged to John Swarthin, followed by Isaac Lincoln in 1814, and David Dunlap in 1823 and 1825.

In the early 1800s the next generation of Eatons purchased land: Abner, Martin, Moses Jr, and Samuel Jr. Given names were re-used, Eatons continued to sell land to one another, and still it was only the use of “Jr” that clarified the muddle of Eatons.

In 1829, at age 70, Samuel and his wife sold or mortgaged their 50 acres one final time, to David Dunlap. When Samuel died the following year, David Dunlap officially owned the former home of Samuel and Dorothy Eaton.

Some 6 years later, Abner Eaton, relationship to Samuel and Dorothy unknown, bought that same 50 acres of land, which he sold or mortgaged to Timothy Simpson and Richard T. Dunlap on the very same day he bought it.

The 50 acres near the top of Rocky Hill, bordered by the Androscoggin and River Rd. changed hands many times over the next century. A detailed review of deeds seems to indicate that Samuel and Dorothy (Danforth) Eaton’s farm was purchased by Hazel (Gunderson) Cook in the 1930s and remained in her possession until her death in 2003 at age 92.

Next Blog: Rocky Hill Revolution


  • Sloop photo,
  • Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriage)
  • 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 and
  • Hazel Cook obituary, The Herald of Randolph, May 22, 2003
  • *History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
  • Images from Wheelers’,
  • The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators & the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier, Colin Woodard, Penguin Books, 2005
Posted in Brunswick History | 2 Comments

Ann at the Crossroads

Map of Colonial Topsham and Brunswick from Wheelers' History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell

Map of Colonial Topsham and Brunswick
from Wheelers’ History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell

By 1764, Brunswick in the District of Maine had grown to some 30 households. Located far from the Massachusetts Bay Colony of which it was a part, and the manpower and supplies it held, each person in this frontier town was dependent on their neighbors for companionship, defense against the Indians, medical care, and food.

Every Massachusetts community of sufficient size supported a meetinghouse (church) and other accouterments necessary to English colonial life. Brunswick’s First Parish Meetinghouse was on Maquoit Rd., now the southern end of Maine St. Behind the building was a small burying ground for the dead, with a whipping post and pair of stocks* to keep the living in line. Now only the First Parish Cemetery remains on upper Maine St.

Pillory (stand-up stocks) Courtesy

Pillory (stand-up stocks)

The stocks were used at least once, for the punishment of a woman who shared an “embrace” with a man named Rogers in exchange for the expensive luxuries of sugar, tea, and coffee. When she didn’t receive the promised goods, she took him to court. When she couldn’t prove her case, she was convicted of defaming Rogers. The verdict was:

That Jenny Eaton be stretched upon the public stocks and rotten eggs thrown at her by the passing spectators for abfaming (sic) the character of an innocent man.

So, this is what Brunswick was like in 1764 when Ann Conner gave birth to a son in a house at the junction of Maquoit and Middle Bay Rds. just south of the meetinghouse. She named the baby Robert. His father, Irish immigrant James McManus, petitioned to have his boy baptized. That was the beginning of the end for Ann.

She and James had been living together as man and wife but weren’t married. James, in fact, may still have been married to Mary Bond, who may or may not have been living at that time. James and Mary had at least 3 sons born in Brunswick beginning in 1760. How Ann came to live with James is unknown. She might have been an indentured family servant or a recent widow. Perhaps Mary had died during or shortly after childbirth and Ann was hired to care for James’s young sons. The couple may simply have been in love, prompting James to leave Mary and build a life with Ann.

The deacons of the First Parish Church agreed to baptize Robert McManus, but, because James was “living in open sin” with Ann, said he must first openly “confess to his relations” with her. No record indicates that Ann Conner was required to confess or otherwise humble herself. Perhaps if she had been given the chance to make amends she would have been free to begin anew.

Pines on the Old Harpswell Rd. Barbara A. Desmarais, June 2015

Pines on the Old Harpswell Rd.
Barbara A. Desmarais, June 2015

Instead, she likely suffered guilt and social ostracism. She might also have suffered from post-partum depression. In the end, unable to face another day, she hung herself from a pine tree.

Though England at that time was beginning to view suicide as the result of mental illness, Brunswick church officials still seemed to believe that “self murder” was inspired by the Devil. Ann was denied a Christian burial in the little cemetery behind the meetinghouse. Rather, the church-goers of Brunswick drove a stake through her body and buried her according to a pagan custom, at a crossroads, so that if her spirit arose, it would be confused and unable to haunt the living.

Ann Conner's Brunswick, adapted from 1871 map

Ann Conner’s Brunswick, adapted from 1871 map

Ann’s exact burial place is unknown. Various sources name Harpswell Rd. as one of the crossroads beneath which she was buried. The other road remains a mystery, but some researchers speculate she was buried under the pines that once graced a newer part of the Bowdoin College campus. Before 1950, Harpswell Rd. started near Harpswell’s border with Brunswick and ranged northwest until it merged with Maquoit Rd. (aka Maine St.) and Bath St. behind the modern site of the First Parish Church. By the 1950s the northerly end of Harpswell Rd. had been rerouted to the east, through an area called the Delta, to expand the college grounds. Eventually those pines were cut down and classrooms were built over the old Harpswell Rd.

Old Skolfield Farm Barbara A. Desmarais, July 2015

Old Skolfield Farm
Barbara A. Desmarais, July 2015

Local legend claims that Ann’s spirit haunts the old Skolfield farm at the southern end of Harpswell Rd. If so, might she be wandering from one end of the road to the other looking for the missing connection to Maquoit Rd.? Is she searching for the ancient burying ground behind the meetinghouse, the place where she might, at last, find peace?


Stocks: A stocks was a wooden structure of planks used to secure the hands and feet of a person as punishment for a crime. Usually seated, the criminal was secured outside in a public space, no matter the weather, open to pubic ridicule and abuse. The stocks was standard equipment in most Massachusetts towns of the colonial era.

Robert McManus: See Sins of the Father


  • History of the First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine. Ashby, Thompson Eldridge D.D., Brunswick, ME J. H. French and Son, 1969
  • Brunswick Telegraph. April, 1858
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds. 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine and
  • Four Lectures on the History of Brunswick. McKeen, John, Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME, 1985
  • McManus Family Records. Courtesy of Etta McManus Powers, Brunswick, ME, 2002
  • Pillory image from
  • 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

Sins of the Father

Corner Maquoit and Middle Bay Roads Adapted from 1910 map

Corner Maquoit and Middle Bay Roads
Adapted from 1910 map

Robert McManus was born in Brunswick on July 14th, 1764, barely a decade before the Revolutionary War, in a home at the junction of the old Middle Bay and Maquoit Rds. The home was only a few rods south of the old First Parish Meeting House. He was the 4th of 5 sons of James McManus, who emigrated from Ireland with his wife Mary.

In the Wheeler brothers’ history of Brunswick, the McManus family profile lists all 5 sons of James McManus in this order: Daniel, James, John, Richard, and Robert. The Wheelers included only Robert’s date and location of birth, perhaps because of the scandal attached to his birth.

In November 1754 James Sr. wanted his son baptized, but, because James was “living in open sin,” First Parish Church officials required him to “confess to his relations” with the boy’s mother, Ann Conner. The McManus family, who were the most likely source of the Wheelers’ information, probably included Robert’s birthdate in their family history, ensuring that he would forever be known as the illegitimate child of James McManus and Ann Conner.

Robert’s mother died by the time he turned 6. Probably not long after that, he boarded with and worked for Deacon Dunning. He was subsequently indentured for 5 years to Revolutionary War veteran Brigadier General Samuel Thompson.

As an adult Robert married twice and farmed first on the Durham Rd., then half-way up Rocky Hill on River Rd., and finally at his last farm at the foot of Rocky Hill. We might be tempted to conclude that he lived in a different part of town from the rest of his family, but we’d be wrong. In fact, in 1796 he bought the Rocky Hill farm next to his brother Daniel. Their brother John also lived nearby. Robert’s adult children, nieces, and nephews married into neighboring families, so Robert was surrounded by extended family.

By 1850 Robert had turned his farm over to his daughter Ellen and her husband John Merryman. The 1850 census recorded Robert living there with Merrymans and their 8 children, ages 2 to 18. The Brunswick Telegraph reported that McManus voted for Gen. George Washington for his second term and never missed an election until 1856 when a storm kept the 92-year-old away from the polls. He was healthy and strong, suffering only from “rheumatism.” His memory never wavered and he enjoyed sharing stories of Brunswick’s early history, particularly the “trials and deprivations” of the colonial settlers during the Indian Wars. He died at age “93 years, 9 months and 15 days” on April 29, 1858, after a few months of failing health.

Robert McManus’s obituary in the Brunswick Telegraph ended with this paragraph:

Mr. McManus was a man highly respected by his friends and neighbors, and, as one of his sons remarks to us, made it the sum of his advice to his children to wrong no man—to deal justly with all, to walk humbly and love mercy, and the old man closed his eyes on life with perfect resignation, in the humble hope of having discharged his duty, and of a reward hereafter; he left eight children, four by his first and four by his second wife.

Maquoit Cemetery Corner of Maquoit & Middle Bay Rds Adapted from 1871 map

Maquoit Cemetery
Corner of Maquoit & Middle Bay Rds
Adapted from 1871 map

No tombstone remains to mark Robert McManus’s grave. It’s possible he was interred on the family burying ground halfway up Rocky Hill on River Rd. Deeds, though, reveal that his nephew Patrick owned a farm at the corner of Maquoit and the old Middle Bay Rds. Was this James Sr.’s homestead? Patrick McManus’s farm abutted the old Maquoit Baptist Church and cemetery lot on two sides, as if the lot had been carved from the farm. In fact, Patrick and a number of other family members are buried in a large plot in the northeast corner by his old farm.

McManus Lot, Maquoit Cemetery Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, July 2015

McManus Lot, Maquoit Cemetery
Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, July 2015

If Robert McManus’s remains are in the Maquoit graveyard, then this son of James McManus and Ann Conner may well have returned to the place where he was born.

Next Blog: Ann at the Crossroads

Notes: The Brunswick Telegraph named Robert Dunning as a deacon of First Parish Church. This information was repeated in the Wheeler brothers’ later history of Brunswick. The History of the First Parish Church lists only Deacon Andrew Dunning. McKeen’s lectures name Deacon Andrew Dunning and Lieut. Robert Dunning as participants in a discussion of Brunswick’s future role in the Revolutionary War.


  • United States Federal Censuses
  • History of the First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine. Ashby, Thompson Eldridge D.D., Brunswick, ME J. H. French and Son,1969
  • Brunswick Telegraph. April, 1858
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds. 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine and
  • The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Barbara A. Desmarais,
  • Four Lectures on the History of Brunswick. McKeen, John, Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME, 1985
  • McManus Family Records. Courtesy of Etta McManus Powers, Brunswick, ME, 2002
  • 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 , , , , , | 4 Comments

Down by the Riverside

Samuel Randall Jackson’s life seems right out of a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story. He was born in Canterbury, NH, in 1803, but grew up in a log cabin on a Vermont farm where his family barely eked out a living. He left home at age 13 and settled in Topsham, Maine, working as a “chore-boy.” When he was 16 he went to work for George F. Richardson in his grocery and variety store. He stayed there for 5 years. Jackson suffered adversity, as well as success. He attributed his successes to his own emulation of Richardson’s “example of honesty, justice, economy, perseverance and industry.”

Twice as a young man he had to start over after fires. The first fire, at Richardson’s store, destroyed everything Jackson owned and left him with frostbitten feet. The second was at his own store, which he rented from Richardson. After the $4000 loss, Jackson’s partner, Major Nahum Perkins, left the business, but Jackson persevered. He took on Major Frost as his new partner and began anew.

He married Jane Fulton Winchell of Topsham in 1830 and they relocated to Worcester, Mass, where he spent the next 7 years in the lumber business. In Worcester he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, which didn’t share his anti-slavery views. Jackson and other members seceded from that church and joined the ‘True Wesleyan church’ so named for John Wesley who wrote, “American Slavery, the vilest that ever saw the sun.” In 1850, his wife Jane, their daughters Susan and Sarah, and son Osceola, relocated to Topsham while Jackson spent 2 years in California, selling coal for his business, Jackson and Sterry Coal Co. The trip was not without danger. The Brunswick Telegraph reported in Jackson’s obituary:

Oregon Coast by

Oregon Coast by

…he was cast away on the coast of Oregon, in the schooner “Harriett”, the vessel being loaded with lumber from the Columbia river, and bound for San Francisco. The schooner was dismasted and driven by the gale, into an arm of the sea; unable to escape, as the trade winds were contrary, the people were obliged to remain on short allowance of provisions, and in momentary fear of being captured by the Indians and massacred by them. Mr. Jackson with several other passengers, accepted the guidance of an Indian of friendly aspect, and by journeying across the country, they reached the Columbia river, where they took a steamer for San Francisco. The word received by paper, “Seen dismasted and in distress, the sea making a clean breach over her decks by Brig Venezuela,” gave his friends reason to suppose that he was lost. An obituary of him appeared in the columns of the “Wesleyan” by Rev. W. H. Brewster.

After this near disaster he returned to his family in Maine. They settled in Brunswick, remaining there for the next 22 years. Jackson was active in business and politics, serving two terms in the State Legislature, and was president of Maine Bank and its successor 1st National Bank. He was a director of the Brunswick Gas Light Co. and a stockholder of the Androscoggin Pulp Co. Not surprisingly after his high seas adventure, he organized a marine insurance company, as well. In 1874, Jackson, now a wealthy man, chose to retire to Plainfield, New Jersey, with wife Jane and daughter Sarah. They returned to Brunswick in 1886.

Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, June 2015

Photo courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, June 2015

When he died in 1892, the Brunswick Telegraph printed:

In many hearts is he here remembered and revered for his kindly acts of helpfulness and sympathy for the unfortunate and distressed. In this connection we may refer to his donation in 1891 of $1000 to the Public Library. An unexpected favor at one time was shown one of his family by a stranger. Upon expressing surprise, the stranger answered, “I am always glad to be able to do anything in my power for any one belonging to Mr. Jackson; he was my friend when I was in my sorest need, and with his help, so freely and kindly given, I was saved from disgrace.”

Jackson was buried in Riverside Cemetery.

It’s not Jackson’s bootstrap success and sterling character we remember today. It’s the four properties that Samuel R. Jackson, Gentleman, bought on the Androscoggin River at the corner of Pleasant St. and River Rd. in 1873.

Riverside Cemetery Plan

Riverside Cemetery Plan

That year the Brunswick Telegraph wrote:

New Cemetery. S. R. Jackson, Esq., has recently purchased the lot of land, comprising 12 acres, more or less, lying at the intersection, on the north side of Pleasant Street or Portland Road, and the road leading to Rocky Hill. This land he will lay out for a public cemetery, and work is to be immediately commenced in the way of general improvement and the assignment of lots. The land lies upon the river’s bank and is favorably located for the purpose designed;–with trees set out and walks and driveway tastefully arranged the place may become highly ornamental to that part of the village.

View from Jackson stone Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, June 2015

View from Jackson stone
Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, June 2015

Despite his harrowing experiences at sea, Jackson’s headstone on the cemetery’s highest point faces the Androscoggin River rather than the cemetery that extends below.

Next Blog: Sins of the Father


Osceola Jackson was probably named for Mount Osceola in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.


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My Mother’s Mother’s Mother

Flora Silva Purinton, courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais

Flora Silva Purinton, courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais

I have no memory of my mother’s mother, Flora (Silva) Purinton. When I was two she was committed to Augusta Mental Hospital due to dementia; I never saw her again. Everything I know about her, I learned from her personal photo album or by pestering my mother, aunts, and uncles for Grammie’s story. I shared some of Flora’s story in A Flora Bouquet.

Flora and Alice Purinton, courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais

Flora and Alice Purinton,
courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais

As an adult I continued to question my mother and her siblings about Grammie and Great-aunt Alice’s past, hoping they’d add a new tidbit to the narrative. Sometimes they did. My Great-aunt Alice lived with Flora’s eldest daughter, also Alice, for many years so I wrote my aunt to see what she could add to the narrative.

Excerpt from Letter 1 from Aunt Alice, November 19, 1986

Aunt Alice and your Gram were orphaned here – both were born in California of Portuguese parents. [Here Alice wrote “John and Mary Silva” and crossed them out.] Antonio Sylvar Pestruit and Maria Nicarda Pestruit. Just looked this up. Have Aunt A’s letters to priest in California. Don’t look at them very often. That is why I made a mistake (above). Mama was a year or two older than Aunt Alice. Apparently their mother and father separated when the girls were very small – perhaps even before Aunt A. was born. My mother used to tell me about them going to visit their father (who evidently was a fisherman) down near the water – where he lived with somebody they called the stepmother. He seemed to have kept the boys with him. Ma used to speak of a Tony, a George (I think) and a William. She spoke of a baby (brother – I guess) laid out in a casket…, on the table – so there was sorrow there as in all families.

The girl’s mother brought them east by train. Seems she sold their house. Ma spoke of their mother sewing gold pieces in a sort of belt around her waist. She evidently thought she was dying (and probably was – by the way Ma used to tell of the way she acted – and how very pale she was.) The girls were placed in a home on Huntington Ave. Boston – then called by the (awful) name of Home for Destitute Catholic Children. Have an idea that is where most of the gold pieces went – to help care for the girls…. No record was found of a baptismal certificate for Ma. Have an idea that there was a change of residence between Ma and Aunt Alice’s birth. (Just a guess.)

Aunt Alice’s letter fleshed out my grandmother’s early life for me, but also introduced me to my great-grandmother, Mary (Miranda) Silva. Mary has been elusive; I have only two documents that I can definitely attribute to her, but they’re important ones.

1900 United States Federal Census, Branciforte Township, California from

1900 United States Federal Census, Branciforte Township, California

The first is the 1900 census, which shows Mary, a Catholic, divorced from her husband, Antone. Both were head of different households in Branciforte Township, California. Just as my aunt had written, Antone lived with his new wife and 3 of Mary’s children and Mary lived with daughters Flora and Alice. She did own her home, which she probably sold to fund her trip east to start a new life.

Letter from Superintendent of Westborough State Hospital, 1930

Letter from Superintendent of Westborough State Hospital, 1930

By December 1902, Mary and her daughters had travelled by train all the way across the United States to Massachusetts. That’s when the second document, a letter from the superintendent of Westborough State Hospital, an insane asylum, indicates Mary was committed there. The 1903 immigration act allowed federal authorities to deport non-citizens residing in publicly funded institutions including hospitals, asylums, poor farms, or prisons. Mary fit the criteria and in April 1903 she was discharged for deportation back to Portugal. She and her young daughters said their goodbyes on a Boston dock and the girls were returned to the orphanage. Mary may have been aboard a ship that arrived in Liverpool, England, on April 16th, 1903. I hope Mary made it home to her family.

Unidentified woman from photo album of Flora (Silva) Purinton, courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais

Unidentified woman from photo album of Flora (Silva) Purinton,
courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais

When I look through Grammie’s photo album I always stop at a portrait of an unidentified dark-eyed woman. Each time I see it I wonder, is this Mary? Is this my mother’s mother’s mother? I may never know.

Next Blog: Down by the Riverside


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