The Farmer

Anastasie and Eustache, Part 2

French Canadian immigrants, Anastasie Paradis and Eustache Martin came to Brunswick, Maine, from the Chicoutimi region of Quebec to work at the cotton mill. (See Le Cultivateur) In 1895 they married and started a family. By 1910, they were a family of nine: Anastasie; Eustache; sons Eustache Jr and Ovila; and daughters Rose, Eva, Alfreda, Marie Anne, and Noella.

Libby to Martin 4016_4_24_1913 cd

Both Eustache Sr and Jr worked at the Cabot Company’s cotton mill. Like many French Canadian immigrants who had left the family farm, Eustache Sr likely saw himself as a farmer working a supplementary job. He was a weaver at the mill, a stonemason, and operated his own wood-sawing machine business. He may have held onto the dream of returning to Chicoutimi, for, unlike a large number of his fellow immigrants, Eustache Sr never sought to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. As his American-born children grew, perhaps he gave up the idea of going back to a place he hadn’t called home for twenty years. Instead, in April 1913, Eustache Martin Sr bought a farm on Bunganuck Road near Maquoit Bay.

Eustache Farm 1910 Brunswick Map cd

Because Bunganuck was at the other end of town from the Cabot Company and commuting was still by foot or hoof, it seems unlikely that either Eustache Sr or Jr continued at the mill. Instead, the entire family would have developed a daily rhythm of rising early to feed the horse, pigs, and chickens; feed and milk the cows; collect the eggs; pasture the animals; clean the barn; tend the crops; build or repair fences; and, finally, bring the livestock in for the night. In between all that they did household chores: cooking, cleaning, sewing, mending, chopping wood, building a fire, and doing laundry — all without the electric appliances we take for granted in 2016.

The next day, they’d do it over again.

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Anastasie and Eustache Martin Sr at Jalbert Farm at Gurnet before 1915, courtesy of Agnes (Martin) Maynard

As all consuming as the work was, it paid dividends mill work never could: brisk ocean breezes, bird song, swimming in the brook, the scent of freshly mown hay, independence, and a return to a life tempo that seemed natural for the Martins.

Then, suddenly, everything changed.

Without warning, on Thursday, January 21, 1915, Eustache Sr died of a stroke.

The Brunswick Record didn’t publish a death notice or obituary for Eustache Martin Sr. Perhaps Jr, the only family member who spoke English, didn’t know he could bring a notice to the newspaper. Or perhaps the death of one more French Canadian wasn’t of interest to the readers of an English language publication.

Since it was the dead of winter and the ground was frozen, Sr’s body was stored until the spring thaw. When the earth was soft enough to be parted by a handheld shovel, Eustache Eusebe Martin Sr was buried at St. John’s Cemetery on Pine Street.

380 Bunganuc Rd

“Bunganuc” Road in area of Martin Farm

An age-old story repeated itself: lacking the wherewithal to pay the mortgage, the family lost the Bunganuck Road property. Anastasie and the children moved back to Little Canada, to 9 Union Street Extension between Cabot and Mill Streets, just to the west of the cotton mill by the river. Eustache Jr, and then each sibling as they became old enough, went to work to support the family.

Still, Eustache the farmer left an internal legacy to his family and their descendents. Even though they had lived at Bunganuck only two years, his farming identity had taken root and grown to maturity in the hearts of his children. Daughter Alfreda, for instance, was born in the shadow of Cabot mill; lived there for all but those two years until she was thirty-eight; and worked for decades at Cabot’s successor, the Verney Mill. Yet, years later she would tell her grandchildren that her parents were farmers from Chicoutimi and she herself was raised on a farm. Millwork, after all, was simply supplementary income. Farming was the Martin’s lifework.

Next Blog: Anastasie, épouse de feu Eustache Martin

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Le Cultivateur

St. Lawrence River 1901 LOC

St. Lawrence River at Riviere du Loup (Library of Congress)

Québec

As early as 1536, French pioneers harvested the natural bounty of Quebec’s dense forests. They transported their furs and timber via the rivers of New France to ports along the Atlantic Ocean and thence to France itself. Since even trappers and lumberjacks needed their daily bread, cultivateurs (farmers) soon followed, clearing the rocky land on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in southern Quebec, to raise wheat in a growing season even shorter than Maine’s. Still, the farmers were successful enough that, by the mid- to late-1800s, their families had outgrown the ancestral farms. Desiring homesteads of their own, some families moved to ever more remote villages, such as Hébertville in Chicoutimi.

Unfortunately, the land in the further reaches of Quebec was infertile, had poor access to large markets, and had a shorter growing season. This meant farming in these newer settlements, as in much of Maine, was often subsistence, never yielding a surplus to sell at market. Just as in parts of Maine, farmers worked in other trades such as timber for the better part of the year. The timber industry in Quebec, in fact, was its biggest employer. Many of these businesses took full advantage of their positions, often paying workers with company scrip that could only be spent in company stores. Lumber merchants became richer; les cultivateurs became increasingly indebted, and, thus, poorer.

Asher and Adams' Maine and New Brunswick:with portions of Quebec

From Hébertville (Laq St. Jean), Quebec, to Brunswick, Maine, via Le Chaudiere and the Old Canada Road

Seeing opportunity in both the poverty and great numbers of Québécois, agents from New England mills traveled to Quebec to recruit single men and women, and entire families, to head south for work. Conditions must have been dire for so many to choose to make the arduous journey on foot or in horse-drawn wagons, and later by rail, from French Canada to English-speaking New England. The Québécois left behind close-knit families and traditional rural communities to travel to foreign industrialized cities, all in hopes of landing an unguaranteed and unfamiliar job operating dangerous machinery in a noisy, crowded mill.

Some of those who emigrated from Quebec intended to stay in the United States just long enough to earn the cash denied them at home. Others never looked back.

Les Émigrants

The families of Anastasie Paradis (1868-1934) and Eustache Martin (1870-1915) both relocated from the east bank of the St. Lawrence River to the west bank, both to the farming village of Hébertville in Chicoutimi. The Paradis family left St. André sometime after 1851; the Martins would leave St. Anne thirty years later. The fathers, Olivier Paradis and Eváriste Martin, were just two of the 469 cultivateurs in Hébertville in Canada’s1891 census. More than one quarter of the men in the village of just 1850 people were farmers, including boys as young as fourteen. The handful of other occupations listed included modiste (dressmaker), journalier (day laborer), and cordonnier (shoe maker).

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Olivier Paradis family in 1891 Canadian census (Ancestry.com)

 

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Eváriste Martin family in 1891 Canadian census (Ancestry.com)

The census recorded that both twenty-seven-year-old [sic] Anastasie and twenty-one-year-old Eustache (cultivateur) were of French origin, Roman Catholic, single, and living with their parents and siblings on their families’ farms. Anastasie’s father farmed with the aid of his only son still at home, plus a hired hand. Eustache, two of his brothers, and their father, worked the Martin farm. In the Paradis home, only Anastasie’s mother could read and write. Eustache’s family was the better educated: he, his parents, and three of his siblings were literate.

Twenty-three-year-old Anastasie might well have felt some pressure to find a way to relieve the financial pressures faced by her family of eight. Her choices all involved leaving the farm: marriage in Chicoutimi or finding work – perhaps as a servant or mill hand in a larger Quebec town. She chose emigration and a job: by the following year Anastasie was 375 miles away from Hébertville, working for the Cabot cotton mill at the head of Brunswick’s Maine Street, along with Eustache and other French Canadian expatriates.

Future U.S. Federal censuses would show that Eustache had already come to the United States between 1888 and 1890. It’s possible he hadn’t returned to his parents’ farm but was reported as being there by a parent or sibling who hoped his absence was temporary. If Eustache had returned to Chicoutimi in 1891 it might have been to visit his family, bring home funds earned in the States, or perhaps to encourage others to seek new lives away from Quebec.

Another possibility is that Eustache came home to ask Anastasie to leave Chicoutimi for Brunswick, Maine, and a job at the mill – and, perhaps, a future life with him.

Eustache_Anastasie wedding day

Wedding photo of Eustache and Anastasie (Paradis) Martin. Courtesy of Agnes (Martin) Maynard.

Le Mariage

On Monday, May 6, 1895, Anastasie, in full corset, donned her very modern gown: bell skirt (no bustle!), fitted bodice, and leg-o’-mutton sleeves. Eustache wore the latest waistcoat (vest), low cut to allow more freedom of movement, and a jaunty boutonniere in his coat lapel. It was spring: shade trees were in full leaf and lilacs were just beginning to bud. Far from home, yet surrounded by Quebecois friends, Anastasie and Eustache married. Although a recent flood had left the roads muddy, the newlyweds and their wedding party likely took a celebratory ride in carts “…driven abreast, as rapidly as livery horses can travel…the occupants being all in high glee.”* Perhaps they drove to the local photographer’s studio to have their wedding portrait taken.

After, the couple might have strolled across the new pedestrian bridge between Brunswick and Topsham to watch the sunset. Perhaps, finally, they went to their room or apartment in one of Cabot Mill’s tenement houses on the banks of the Androscoggin River. Imagine the sigh of relief as Anastasie loosened her whalebone corset and Eustache removed his spit-shined leather shoes.

The Martins would not have been lonely – by the early 1890s, French Canadians and their American-born children were a third of Brunswick’s population.

Cabot Mil MS_0419_Folder_W_Z_031

The Cabot Company

Unfortunately, unlike companions, money was scarce. Just like the timber companies in Quebec, the Cabot Mill initially ran a grocery store where their employees were expected to shop. The Martins would see this change, partly at the urging of Brunswick merchants who were anxious to profit from 2500 potential new customers in a town of just over 6000. Recognizing the necessity of having French-speaking clerks, some merchants hired mill hands’ children and grandchildren. This would soon pave the way for French Canadians and their children to start their own businesses.

Money was tight, but when Anastasie and Eustache first arrived in Brunswick, the living conditions were worse. The Cabot Company spent as little as possible on employee accommodations. The apartments were small, the families large. The company saw no need to invest in sewers: the tenements discharged waste directly into the river that was also the source of the workers’ drinking water. Both the close quarters and unsanitary conditions contributed to typhoid and diphtheria epidemics in the French community. When the epidemics touched the families of Brunswick “natives,” the town began a three-year sewer project, laying down nine miles of pipe between 1894 and ’97.

Little girl and Pig LOC crpd

“Take a ‘poon piggie.” Library of Congress

Though at the beginning of their marriage both worked six days a week at the mill, Anastasie and Eustache were only a handful of years away from the farm and still cultivateurs at heart. On the farm, their families had likely raised pigs, using every part of the animals to feed their large families through the long, cold winters. Requiring little more than a sturdy pen, water from the nearby river, and scraps for food, the couple could have raised a spring piglet to a butcher-ready hog by early autumn. The animal would yield thick slabs of bacon, chops, and roasts. Wasting no part of the animal, Anastasie would have rendered lard to spread on homemade bread and for pastries such as tourtière (meat pie). Finally, she would have used the rest of the animal to make headcheese (lunch meat) and cretons (pork pâté).

Eustache Martin census 1910 crpd

Eustache and Anastasie Martin family in 1910 census. Ancestry.com

 La Famille; Le Travail

Employed, housed, and fed, the Martins started their family in earnest. First came Eustache Jr (1896-1964), then twins Marie and Marion (1897-by1900). The unhealthful living conditions took a toll on the family. By 1910, Anastasie had given birth to thirteen children. Only seven were still alive: sons Eustache Jr and Ovila, and daughters Rose, Eva, Alfreda, Marie Anne, and Noella.

Maintaining a family of nine was as labor-intensive in a modern mill town as it was at the farm. The boys no doubt chopped wood or carried coal to fuel the cook stove, fired on all but the hottest days for cooking and heating water. The girls sewed and mended clothing, cooked, and cleaned the house. Each week there was the muscle-building work of doing laundry. Someone, probably Anastasie, lifted heavy kettles of water to heat on the stove. Then she would have boiled and bleached the whites to remove stains made by coal and wood smoke, sweat, and work grime. Starching came next to protect the color, allay wrinkles (no permanent press), and repel dirt. Then the girls might have hung the clothes to dry outdoors in the sun or inside on lines strung overhead during inclement weather. Finally, for the better part of the following day, one of the Martin women heated a heavy flat iron on the stove to use in smoothing the wrinkled clothing, stopping to reheat the iron each time it cooled.

Back Boy Mule Room03119r

Back boy – Mule room – 14 years. Berkshire Mill. by Lewis W. Hine, 1916. Library of Congress.

Mill hands Eustache Sr and Jr both put in long days of their own, working ten to twelve hours, six days a week. As a weaver Eustache Sr watched the looms, waiting for a thread to break, then repairing it by weaving in a new one. Though fourteen-year-old Eustache Jr seems a child to us, back in Quebec he would have been a full-fledged cultivateur, working along side his father. Now he worked at the mill instead, as a back boy in the spinning room, tending the bobbins. Cotton dust floated freely in the factory, dampening the light from the tall windows, thickening the air they breathed. Perhaps at noontime one of the younger Martin girls brought their father and brother a lunch of homemade bread layered with cretons or headcheese.

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Image from gulagbound.com.

At the mill, Sr and Jr were required to speak English, partly for ease in communication with English-speaking workers and bosses, partly to assuage the bosses’ pride as they sought to prevent unintelligible personal insults or, worse yet, seeds of strike. At home and throughout Little Canada, though, both Eustaches spoke their native tongue, the only language Anastasie and her girls understood.

Eustache Sr, unafraid of hard work, may have struggled with the rhythm of a workday designed around the starts and stops of machines, rather than the more natural and familiar cycle determined by seasons, crops, and livestock. Still hoping to save enough money for his own farm, he supplemented his income with stone masonry and by 1910 operated his own business, a wood-sawing machine.

Three years later, Eustache’s hard work would change the family’s circumstances, both for the better and the worse.

Next Blog: The Farmer

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The Rest of Hannah’s Story

In the last blog, Hannah Keeps Her House, Enos Merryman (1807-1851) died intestate and in debt. When his Rocky Hill estate was auctioned off, his widow, Hannah McManus Merryman (1806-1899), was able to keep the farm by bidding funds from a mortgage from her kin, Robert and Richard McMannus.

repossession

Unfortunately, she was unable to repay the loan when it came due two years later; the McManus men repossessed the property.

Hannah lost her home.

Her losses continued. In 1858, son George (1836-1858), a mariner like his father and his brothers, died in New Orleans. George may have been one of the 4,845 people who died of Yellow Fever there that year. Then Hannah’s world shrank even more when her ninety-three-year-old father, Robert McManus (1764-1858), died about that same time.

The following year, Hannah’s repossessed Rocky Hill property was sold.

Hannah 1860 census crpd

1860 U.S. Federal Census, Brunswick, Maine

Despite that sale, the 1860 census recorded Hannah, daughter Fannie; sons Walter (seaman), Enos, and John; plus boarder William Alexander (ostler) living together on Rocky Hill. They were two doors away from her cousin Harvey McManus, his wife Dorcas, and their five children.

Life Goes On

Still, Hannah’s family continued to grow in its convoluted way as more of her children married and had families of their own. Successful ship captain Robert Lincoln married his distant cousin Almira Merryman (1834-1899), daughter of Capt. Thomas and Almira (McManus) Merryman.

Harriet & Thomas 1860 c crpd

1860 U.S.Federal Census, Brookline, Massachusetts

Some of Hannah’s children, like those of her sister, Eleanor (McManus) Merryman, moved away. By 1860 Hannah’s own daughter Harriet and her husband, Thomas Merriman, were in Brookline, Massachusetts, where Thomas worked as a carpenter.

Enos Jr civil war draft crpd

1864-65 Civil War Class 1 Registration, Brunswick, Maine

The Civil War was on the horizon. The potential for more loss and grief must have been clear to Hannah whose her mother died during the War of 1812. Now Hannah stood to lose Robert and Enos Jr., who were among twelve McManus and Merryman men registered for the draft between 1863 and 1865.

Fortunately, her sons stayed safe, and life went on.

After the war, Enos Jr. and his cousin, Ellen C. McManus, were wed in a ceremony by a Baptist minister in Brookline. Perhaps the newlyweds were in that town to be near Enos’s sister Harriet and her husband Thomas. Enos had left the sea and worked as a carpenter like Thomas. The familial marriage between Enos Jr. and Ellen was doomed, however, ending in divorce six years later, in 1871.

Harriet and Enos weren’t the only Merrymans in the Bay State. By 1870, Hannah, niece Emma Ann Clough, and widowed sister Adeline Kincaid lived in Haverhill where several of Hannah’s nieces and nephews had already moved. The three women were in the home of Adeline’s daughter and son-in-law, Affie (Kincaid) and John Chase. The census didn’t record if the women left Maine for financial reasons, to be closer to family, or because Hannah was hurt and angry that her kin turned her out of house and home.

Harriet Knights death 1873 crpd

Harriet K. Merriman death record

In any event, Hannah may have been grateful for the move to Massachusetts because she was closer to daughter Harriet, who, it turns out, did not have time to spare. In 1873, Harriet died of uterine cancer at the age of forty-one, in her home in Roxbury.

Hannah’s younger daughter, Fannie, was still unmarried at the time, perhaps inspiring Hannah to play matchmaker. The 1870 census listed Hannah living near carpenter Edward B. Bishop, his wife Mary, and their child. It’s not clear if Mary died or the couple divorced, but in 1876 Edward married Fannie (1843-1920). She seemed to be the first of her siblings to wed outside the Merryman and McManus clan. However, it should be noted that Edward was originally from Harpswell, Maine, where Bishops and Merrymans had been marrying one another for a very long time.

About this time, Enos Jr. remarried, this time to Massachusetts-born Sarah Ellinwood.

 Back Home

Capt Richard McManus monument

Capt. Richard McManus Monument in Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, Maine

In 1875, Hannah’s brother, eighty-year-old Richard McManus, died of heart disease after amassing “a handsome property which, however, the reverses of later years have somewhat diminished.”* Perhaps this event prompted Hannah’s return to Brunswick, for by 1880 she lived in Brunswick village. The census that year showed she continued to surround herself with family: her son, the shipmaster John Henry, and her sister, Adeline Kincaid.

Hannah’s third child, Walter, meanwhile, had left the sea to become a farmer in the Growstown part of Brunswick. By 1877, he, too, had married. At first glance his wife, Nancy McManus, appears to have been Walter’s cousin. Nancy’s maiden name, however, was Webb; she was actually the widow of James McManus. It was she who purchased the Growstown farm in 1877. When Walter died just four years later, their farm was still mortgaged to Charles Webb of Bangor, likely Nancy’s relative. Though the widow’s situation echoes Hannah’s of thirty years prior, Nancy Merryman successfully repaid her mortgage and did not lose her home.

A New Brunswick

When Hannah left her rural hometown years earlier, several factories operated along the Androscoggin River at the head of Maine Street, but seafaring, shipbuilding, and farming were still the most important occupations. By her return, the factories had overtaken the traditional occupations in importance. Young women at the Dennison Box factory earned more than local schoolteachers. As shipbuilding all but stopped in Brunswick, the railroad gained in influence: the town followed standardized “railroad time” instead of traditional “farmers’ time” that had been determined by the sun and varied from town to town. Farmers lost additional ground as shopkeepers cut back their evening hours, the only time available to farmers to replenish supplies after a long day’s work.

Town Hall 8.12.26 13A

Brunswick Town Hall 1926, Courtesy Snow Index by Richard Snow, CurtisLibrary.com

The village itself had been a typical New England hamlet spanned by dusty roads, dotted with unadorned wooden shops and homes. The railroad changed that, too. Maine Central Rail Road (MCRR) built a black iron bridge on Mill Street spanning the Androscoggin and another crossing overhead on Jordan Avenue, a new brick sidewalk was installed from the railroad station to Mill Street, and MCRR opened a roundhouse on Union Street. The newly urbanized village gained a crown jewel upon completion of the picturesque Town Hall.

The Brunswick of Hannah’s earlier years was principally an Anglo-Saxon Protestant town, but even in her time two groups challenged that homogeneity. The first was the African American settlement in East Brunswick that peaked in the 1850s at nearly sixty members, less than 2% of Brunswick’s total population of 4,977 in 1850. The other group, Irish immigrants, arrived in waves during the Irish Potato Famine before the Civil War and included not just Protestants, but also Catholics. Over time, some Bath-Brunswick African American families faded to white and new generations of Maine-born Irish lost their foreign accents, quietly blending into the community-at-large, restoring a sense of sameness.

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Undated Cabot Mill Post Card, Courtesy Digital Commons

After the Civil War, the Irish Catholics were joined by French Canadian Catholics, most having come to work in the Cabot cotton mill at the head of Maine Street. Brunswick “natives” described the French part of town as “colorful” and akin to being in a foreign country. The immigrants’ tenement homes along the river reflected their rural Quebec origins; the families raised pigs for food, cows for milk and cheese, and some even made their own beer. They continued to speak French among themselves and sent their children to a French Catholic School. Furthermore, Irish and French Catholics alike worshiped in Latin. It’s doubtful that Hannah found comfort from such an unfamiliar, albeit rural, society.

From 1870 to 1890, the “foreign” population of Brunswick roughly doubled each decade. By 1891 there were almost 2500 French Canadians in a town of 6,012 people. Surely some feared French Canadian Catholics would become the majority.

Capt Robt McManus monument

Capt. Robert McManus Monument in Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, Maine

While the Catholic population increased, Hannah’s own generation continued to shrink. She lost her sister Adeline in 1886, then her brother, Capt. Robert McManus, the very next year.

By the time Hannah died in 1899 at age ninety-three of valvular heart disease, she had been a widow forty-eight years, more than twice as long as she had been married. She even outlived four of her seven children. And, though she herself had come back to her hometown, none of her remaining children or grandchildren lived in Maine. She had seen her hometown evolve from an Anglos-Saxon Protestant farming and seafaring village to an industrial town with an ever-increasing Catholic population. Did the changes reinforce Hannah’s identity or did her sense of self evolve along with the town?

Hannah’s family certainly evolved. They left Maine, some found new occupations, and others left the comfortable extended McManus-Merryman family to find spouses. In a small way, they even changed their name. Though Brunswick documents record the “Merryman” surname, records from Massachusetts to California list Hannah’s children as “Merriman.” While the family monument erected in Varney Cemetery on Pine Street reminds us of Hannah’s cherished position in her large and complicated family, the “Merriman” names inscribed on it also remind us that families change in ways small and large.

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Merriman Monument (on left), Varney Cemetery

Hannah (McManus) Merriman herself did not change in one very important way. The Merriman monument memorializes the births and deaths of her children Walter Scott, John Henry, and Harriet Knights; along with grandson Thomas P. Merriman. Even in death, Hannah is surrounded by family.

Next Blog: Le Cultivateur 

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Hannah Keeps Her House

 

Hannah Merriman monument

When Hannah (McManus) Merryman died in 1899, no obituary appeared in the Brunswick Telegraph. Her children, though, engraved her epitaph on the family monument in Varney Cemetery. Mark Cheetham of Richmond, Maine, transcribed the stone in 2007:

In memory of
our dear mother
who tried to make
home happy and
who’s voice…her
…………..
bea………
comforting ways try to
do right…….there
is our good and loving mother
MERRIMAN

The fractured epitaph provides a glimpse of Hannah’s character but the numerous tangled connections in the McManus-Merryman family offer insight into events in her life that both aided and challenged her efforts to keep a happy home.

Hannah C. McManus

When Hannah C. McManus was born in 1806, Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States and Maine was a district of Massachusetts. She was one of seven children of Robert and Elenor (Coombs) McManus of Rocky Hill. Hannah’s future husband, Enos Merryman, was born the following year on a nearby farm.

Young Hannah and Enos grew up surrounded by siblings and cousins in a neighborhood that straddled the Brunswick-Durham border. Like the McManuses and Merrymans, most neighbors were of English and Scots-Irish stock. Several were members of the Society of Friends, though the McManus and Merryman families attended Congregational or Baptist churches.

Hannah was still a child when Americans fought the English in the War of 1812. Many local men joined the efforts to preserve the country’s independence and their own seafaring livelihoods. These included Hannah’s teenaged brother Richard and several McManus cousins, all of whom joined Capt. Richard T. Dunlap’s Company in Bath.

During that war, Hannah’s mother died, leaving seven motherless children. Though some, like Richard, were nearly adults, it would have been difficult for farmer Robert McManus to care for his children while also working the farm.

In 1813, Robert married Eleanor Crosby. Was it taxing for Eleanor to rear another woman’s young children or was she naturally warm and loving enough to nurture the grieving youngsters? Perhaps Hannah’s love of home and family was born during this time as she helped care for her six half brothers and half sisters. Or perhaps her extended family on Rocky Hill modeled the virtues that guided Hannah throughout her life.

Hannah’s teenage years during the 1820s coincided with the decade of Maine: the state gained independence from Massachusetts, “Main” Street became Maine Street, and Bowdoin College welcomed the newly founded Maine Medical School.

Rocky Hill residents experienced a severe setback in 1823 when Hannah was seventeen. A blaze started in the woods and burned four miles down the hill toward Brunswick village, spreading a mile wide as it raged. The wild fire destroyed twenty-two sets of buildings and killed numerous farm animals.* No help for rebuilding their lives would have come from the village so Hannah would have witnessed families and neighbors helping one another rebuild their homes and barns, while each struggled to replace the food and income from their lost crops and livestock.

New edited McManus Merryman Family Tree 2016

By the end of the decade, two families in the already close-knit community seemed to tighten into a knot, when four McManus women married four Merryman men. These included Hannah McManus and Enos Merryman, who married in July of 1829.

Mrs. Enos Merryman

Because Enos followed the sea, he was sometimes away for weeks or months at a time. During his absences, Hannah likely turned to her large extended family for company and comfort. So many of her children bore family names that it seems clear her kin were important to her:

Robert Lincoln (1830-1903) was probably named for her father or her older brother, Robert McManus. It’s not hard to imagine either of them bouncing the lad on their knee.

Harriet Knights (1831-1873) was born the same year Hannah’s brother, Capt. Robert McManus, married Harriet E. Knights of Portland. Perhaps the new Mrs. McManus stayed with the Merrymans while her husband conducted a particularly long voyage.

Walter Scott (1834-1881) may have been named for the author of many novels of the era such as Ivanhoe. Perhaps the family gathered around the fireside listening to the story read aloud by one of them, Hannah mending their clothing, Enos smoking a pipe purchased in a far away port.

George (1836-1858) is an echo of her brother Capt. George McManus. Did Uncle George fill the boy with tall tales of his sailing exploits, inspiring the boy to become a mariner? 

Enos (1840-1908), of course, was named for his father. Was the child a particular favorite of the father? Did the boy feel obligated to follow his father’s career path?

Fannie Quinby (1843-1920) may honor Elizabeth McManus’s husband Rev. Oliver H. Quinby, whom Elizabeth married in 1841 and who died in 1842. Was Elizabeth Hannah’s sister? No matter, Hannah’s heart must have broken for the new widow and mother of infant Oliver B.

John Henry (1845-1901) may well be a nod to Hannah’s brother-in-law John Merryman. John Henry followed the sea rather than his uncle’s farming ways, though he did emulate his uncle by making his way to California.

Portland Maine 1876 BPL

Hannah C. Merryman, Widow

Ships were still the main mode of long-distance travel when the first locomotive steamed through Brunswick in 1849. That year Hannah’s brother-in-law John Merryman headed west to dig for gold in California, and her husband Enos bought a Rocky Hill farm between River and Durham Roads. Their eldest child Robert was fifteen, just the right age for a first stint aboard ship. The youngest was only five, but no longer a baby needing constant attendance. The Merrymans seemed on the verge of easier times.

The 1850s, however, turned out to be a particularly difficult time for Hannah and her family. At the beginning of the decade, Enos, Hannah and their children lived in Portland, away from the comfort of their Rocky Hill family and friends. Also listed in their home in that year’s census were Elizabeth (McManus) Quinby Clough and Anna Clough, presumably Hannah’s sister and niece. Elizabeth had married Durham neighbor Josiah Clough after her first husband’s death. Was she in the city visiting Hannah that day or was she staying in their home?

The following year the Merrymans may still have been in Portland when Enos was ship-keeper aboard a ship docked at the port of New York and died of smallpox in January. It took days for Hannah to receive the news of her husband’s death because the telegraph hadn’t come to Brunswick yet. Did word come in a letter carried by stage or train, or in person by a mariner returning home to Brunswick?

A month later in Portland, the branches of the Merryman family tree tangled a bit more when Hannah’s eldest daughter Harriet Knights Merryman married Harriet’s own distant cousin, Thomas Merryman (1826-1892). Thomas was himself the son of two distant cousins, James and Mary (Merryman) Merryman. The joy of their marriage must have been tempered by the sadness that Enos was not there to witness his daughter’s marriage, nor delight in his first grandchild, a boy named Thomas.

1857 map Hannah Merryman home

Enos died intestate, so the Cumberland County Probate Court ordered the couple’s Rocky Hill real estate auctioned off to repay debts and mortgages nearing $900. The sale was held at the homestead in May of 1853. Hannah turned to family for help, borrowing money from Robert and Richard McManus, presumably her brothers of the same names. Her offer of $531 for the 34-acre farm on Durham Road plus another 10 acres nearby was the winning bid.

Hannah kept her home.

Next Blog: The Rest of Hannah’s Story

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com: 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.
  • Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine, Varney Cemetery, M, <http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/trans35.13.html>, compiled by Barbara A. Desmarais, ongoing.
  • Brunswick Cemeteries, Brunswick, Maine, Varney Cemetery, Cheetham, Donald, and Mark Cheetham, Richmond, Maine, 2007. Also see: <http://www.curtislibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Varney-Cemetery-searchable1.pdf&gt;
  • Our Town, Reminiscenses and Historical Studies of Brunswick, Maine. From the Collections of the Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, Maine, 1967. Edited by Louise Helmreich, Ph.D.
  •  A Genealogical Surname Index to the History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine by George Augustus Wheeler and Henry Warren Wheeler 1878. Compiled by Shirley Simington Schilly, Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, ME, 1985.
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants, Sinnett, Charles Nelson, Rumford Printing Company, Harpswell, 1905.
  • Bird’s eye view of the city of Portland, Maine, 1876, Warner, Jos., Stoner, J.J., Portland, Me. 1876 The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, <http://maps.bpl.org/id/10424&gt;
  • 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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Going Viral

Cover of Wheeler Brothers' History of Brunswick

A midnight browse through the pages of History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine* yielded more information about Brunswick’s earliest reactions to smallpox, the highly contagious, disfiguring, and often fatal Variola virus, and led to speculation as to the cause of the 1851 epidemics in Brunswick, Maine, and New York.

The Wheeler brothers reported that in October of 1792, during Brunswick’s first smallpox epidemic, citizens ‘voted not to allow any person in this town to inoculate for to take the small-pox, but to take all possible care to prevent the spreading of the disorder.’* For two months, 18 inspectors examined, smoked (in special smokehouses), and cleaned “all goods brought into town.”* Further, the inspectors were directed to “stop, examine, and cleanse any person whom they might suspect of being infected.”* The voters also approved quarantining infected persons in a 28-by-14-foot hospital to be built on the Town Commons. No doctor was allowed to treat smallpox patients without approval from the selectmen.

Thirty-four years later, Brunswick reacted differently to an impending smallpox epidemic. This time voters opted to fund inoculation for every unvaccinated person in town.

In 1851, the same year Enos Merryman died of smallpox aboard ship at the port of New York (see The Shipkeeper and the Housekeeper), there were a few cases of smallpox in the Brunswick area. Once again, the men voted ‘to cause the inhabitants of the town to be vaccinated without delay.’

Was it merely coincidence that New York and Brunswick had smallpox cases in the same year or did disease contracted in one location spread to the other? Let the speculation begin!

We don’t know if Enos was at the beginning or end of his voyage when he was docked in New York, nor if other Brunswick mariners were part of the crew. If he had just arrived in New York, and was already infected with smallpox, Enos could have been the starting point for the city’s epidemic. The disease could have spread out from him to the crew, then to the crew’s favorite venues, and outward to the rest of the city.

It seems more likely, though, that he was at the end of a voyage, perhaps having returned from an area where smallpox was endemic. Given that several of his Merryman and McManus kin were also sailors, one or more could well have been a crew member of the same ship and, having been infected with the virus, brought it to Brunswick when they returned home from their voyage.

Whether or not the New York and Brunswick smallpox episodes were related, 19th-century Maine mariners were physically connected to the world in ways that would have made them shudder at the term “going viral.”

Next Blog: Hannah Keeps Her House

Sources:

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The Shipkeeper and the Housekeeper

Morguefile IMG_9338

Two centuries ago wooden ships used muscle and wind power to transport people, goods, and ideas along rivers, across great lakes, and over treacherous seas. In the early part of the 19th century, entire families from Brunswick and nearby Harpswell earned their livings in seafaring, whether as shipbuilders, suppliers, or sailors. Entire crews might have been friends and neighbors. For many, maritime occupations were temporary, meant to fulfill a desire for adventure or to provide income during lean times. Voyages were fairly short, often transporting goods up and down the Atlantic coast.

After the War of 1812, new technology allowed ships to travel further in less time than before, while carrying larger cargoes. At the same time, competition increased and investment companies demanded speedier and higher profits. Seafaring became faster-paced, crews smaller, and voyages longer. It was also less profitable and more dangerous than before.

New edited McManus Merryman Family Tree 2016Rocky Hill’s Merryman family provided its fair share of mariners. One of these was John Merryman’s brother, Enos (1807-1851), who married Eleanor McManus’s sister, Hannah (1806-1899), in June of 1829. (See John and Eleanor: River Road from Cradle to Grave.)

Coombs to Enos Jr

Portion of Deed from Thomas Coombs to Enos Merryman

The 1830 census listed Enos in Brunswick. He was still there two decades later when, in 1849, he purchased the farm of Thomas and Rhoda Coombs on Rocky Hill, between River and Durham Roads. The very next year, though, the 1850 Federal census recorded Enos (a mariner), his wife Hannah, and their 6 children in their own household in Portland. Enos may have found ready work there, since Portland was both the largest city and the largest port in Maine. He still kept the farm, perhaps renting it out while he and his family were away.

While at sea, mariners endured seasickness, stale food, close quarters, violent storms, and backbreaking work interspersed with spirit-numbing tedium. A sailor’s lot didn’t necessarily change when the ship arrived at port full of cargo since the vessel might have to wait days or weeks for a free berth before the cargo could be unloaded and a new one brought on. That’s why, in 1851, 45-year-old Enos was on duty aboard an empty vessel docked at New York City, acting as the ship-keeper or watchman. With most of the mariners on shore, Enos would have had, at best, a skeleton crew to help him protect the ship from thieves and vandals. The greatest danger he faced that year, though, wasn’t criminals. It was a largely preventable disease – smallpox.

Waterhouse Rev War

From the Papers of Benjamin WaterHouse, 1786-1836; Small pox Lecture, Sept. 1809, courtesy of Harvard University

Europeans brought smallpox to the Americas in the early 16th century. In fact, the disease may have killed as many as 90% of Native Americans during European colonization. In 1798, English physician Edward Jenner published his findings on his newly developed smallpox vaccine. Two years later, Benjamin Waterhouse tested the vaccine in the United States.

Waterhouse Harvard

From the Papers of Benjamin WaterHouse, 1786-1836; Small pox Lecture, Sept. 1809, courtesy of Harvard University

In 1809, Massachusetts (of which Maine was still a part) enacted a law to enforce either mandatory vaccination or quarantine during an outbreak. The committee appointed by neighboring Topsham to determine the number of inhabitants at risk of catching “Kine pox” (1181 people) reported their findings at the May 7th, 1810, town meeting:

…your committee are seriously impressed with the importance of uniting with the enlightened and benevolent men of this and foreign countries to extirpate that dreadful malady from the face of the earth, and we believe if any thing within the power of man can effect that desirable end, it will be by a general inoculation with the Kine pox, which the Great Disposer of events appears mercifully to have made a perfect, mild and safe substitute for this alarming and dreadful pestilence.

Vaccination worked; by the mid-1800s, the majority of Americans had never seen an incident of smallpox and didn’t see a need for preventive inoculation. Further, since smallpox spread in overcrowded and poorly sanitized conditions, it was considered a disease of the poor and morally bankrupt.

The very nature of seagoing vessels created crowded and unhealthful conditions for those aboard, and smallpox was endemic in many of the African regions where slaves were captured and loaded into ships. This meant mariners were especially vulnerable to the disease.

Waterhouse Smallpox progression2

From the Papers of Benjamin WaterHouse, 1786-1836; Small pox Lecture, Sept. 1809, courtesy of Harvard University

And so it was that in 1851, Enos Merryman contracted smallpox.  Perhaps at the beginning of his infection, he languished in his bunk while the crew enjoyed their time ashore. After a week, pustules rendered Enos’s face unrecognizable. His struggle to breathe kept him from sleeping; his inability to swallow prevented eating and drinking. Likely alone and in pain, Enos died, just one of the 562 people who succumbed to the disease in New York that year.

Enos never made it back to Rocky Hill; he was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in New York.

Next Blog: Going Viral

Notes: New York’s population in 1851 was approximately 500,000.

Selected Sources:

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John and Eleanor: From Cradle to Grave on River Road

In 1828 and 1829, four granddaughters of James McManus (see Sins of the Father) married four great-grandsons of Walter and Elizabeth (Potter) Merryman, early settlers of nearby Harpswell.

All eight parties would reside on Rocky Hill, between Durham and River Roads. 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.

John Eleanor Family TreeJohn (1807-1891) and Eleanor (McManus) Merryman (1808-1891)

John was the eldest son of Walter and Hannah (Merryman) Merryman who moved the family from Harpswell to Brunswick when John was a young boy. Eleanor was the daughter of Robert McManus (see Sins of the Father) and Eleanor Crosby and lived on River Road her entire life. She wed John in 1830, the same year he opened his own blacksmith shop on “Main St.” in Brunswick, following an apprenticeship with Major Stinchfield.* They had a large family — ten children. By 1850, another generation was added to the household  when Eleanor’s eighty-five-year-old father lived with them.

Rocky Hill Farm

Along a wooded path on Rocky Hill, Courtesy of Barbara A. Desmarais, 2015

Mainers have long forged  a way of life that embraced the state’s rural nature. In addition to blacksmithing, John was a farmer. Growing food, whether crops or livestock, was hard work and everyone in the family had a role. John cleared trees and rocks from the hilly land; trained his horse and oxen to pull a wagon or harrow; plowed, planted, and hoed crops; and repaired farm implements and animal harnesses. The younger children learned the family business as they milked cows, fed livestock, and picked beans. Older siblings helped work the oxen or chopped wood for heating and cooking and undoubtedly hunted for wild game in the surrounding woods. Eleanor, in addition to giving birth to ten children, sewing the family’s clothes and cooking their meals, churned up to ninety pounds of butter each week — an amazing four thousand pounds of butter in 1860.

That year the household numbered fourteen people and again spanned three generations, including two of John and Eleanor’s daughters, their husbands, and children. The farm, hunting, fishing, and blacksmithing fed the large family. Blacksmithing supplied currency and goods, but sometimes hard cash was needed — and may have been lacking. Deeds indicate John mortgaged the farm in 1844 and 1881, successfully paying back each loan. In between those decades, the farm appears to have done well.

The 1860 Federal Agricultural Census showed the farm produced:

  • 10 bushels of peas and beans
  • 100 bushels of Irish potatoes
  • 4000 pounds of butter
  • 25 tons of hay
  • 180 bushels of oats
  • 25 bushels of Indian corn

The corn, oats, and hay probably fed the $300-worth of livestock:

  • 8 milch cows
  • 1 horse
  • 2 working oxen
  • 2 other cattle
  • 2 swine

 J Merryman Agricultural Census 1860 c2Though the crop production and livestock numbers were in the mid-range for River Road farms, John’s 100-acre farm overlooking the Androscoggin River was valued more than most, at $4000 in 1860 and at $5000 ten years later. He also owned $100 in farming implements and machinery — worth more than those of most of his neighbors.

No matter how well the family worked together, a sudden change in the weather could negate their efforts overnight. In 1869, an October freshet overflowed the banks of the Androscoggin and washed away two hundred bushels of corn from the John Merryman farm.

As John and Eleanor’s children reached adulthood, several followed seemingly different paths from their parents, leaving both farming and Brunswick. In 1850 Nathaniel headed west to California to mine for gold, then continued on to Oregon. Lydia and her husband, mariner Charles Merryman [son of Henry and Catherine (McManus) Merryman], moved forty-two miles south to Saco, Maine. As the national economy faltered after the Civil War, four siblings settled in the state Mainers had tried so long to leave behind –- Massachusetts — all in the town of Haverhill. Frances married John Henry Woodside who ran a variety store. Richard was a contractor and builder. William and Robert were both stone masons by trade.

Life in the gold mines 2

Courtesy of Library of Congress

It was actually John who led the migration from Brunswick.  Not quite forty years old, this “enterprising, energetic and hard working man” left for California in 1849 to seek his fortune during the Gold Rush. He stayed out west west years, coming home for three visits during that time. Later, in the early 1800s, he spent two years in Haverhill.* Each time, though, he came back to his River Road farm — and Eleanor. Eleanor must have had charge of directing the farm work during John’s nearly decade-long absence.

John and Eleanor were married to each other, and only each other, for sixty-three years, but two of their children married twice. Lydia divorced her cousin Charles Merryman in 1873 and married Judge Rufus P. Tapley. Robert married two Haverhill women.

When John died in 1891 at age eighty-four the Brunswick Telegraph wrote:

Mr. Merryman was…a good citizen and neighbor…

Rev. C. L. Waite, of the Universalist church, officiated at the funeral services which took place at the residence of the family at Rocky Hill on Monday last.  A large concourse of relatives and friends manifested their respect and esteem of the deceased by their presence on the occasion.   

John and Eleanor Merryman

Photo Courtesy of Barbara A. Desmarais, 2015

The newly widowed Eleanor went to live with daughter Lydia and her family in Saco. Eleanor died just 1 month later, at age eight-three. It seems fitting that John and Eleanor (McManus) Merryman are memorialized in River Road’s Riverside Cemetery, ending their journey very near where it began.

Next Blog: Enos and Hannah: The Ship-Keeper and the House-Keeper

Notes:

  • Read about another Gold Rush veteran in Jotham Varney, Father.
  • *Quoted from John Merryman’s obituary in the Brunswick Telegraph, March 5, 1891.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com: 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
  • Brunswick Telegraph, March 5, 1891
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print, LC-DIG-ppmsca-32190
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine, and his descendants. Sinnet, Charles N., 1847-1928, Rumford Printing Co., Concord, NH, 1905. https://archive.org/details/waltermerrymanof00sinn
  • 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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