Frances, Indeed

Frances is still missing.

For two weeks we’ve looked for her using clues from Brunswick history resources and from you, dear Reader.

This week I searched for her in seventy pages of deeds for the Stowe House at 63 Federal St. where her stone was found. These included adjacent lots that had been added to the property over the years. I also looked through deeds for another Federal St. property owned by a prominent Stowe House owner, Rev. Benjamin Titcomb. I listed all the names from the deeds through the 19th century, then checked each surname for Frances or Fanny in the Brunswick Vital Records book listed under Sources.

I didn’t expect to find any mention of Frances being buried on the property. Though burial on the family homestead was not particularly unusual in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was more prevalent in the rural parts of town than in the village. Neither the deeds nor two reports commissioned by current Stowe House owner Bowdoin College mentioned any such burial.

Frances resourcesI still thought perhaps a former owner or resident of the Stowe House had buried a family member in a local cemetery and later replaced her cracked, slightly misshapen headstone, taking the old one home. When deeds revealed that part of the current property was once the Phi Delta Psi fraternity house, I wondered if the stone had been stolen from its gravesite as a prank. Either way, the cemeteries seemed the best places to look next. I compiled the Frances and their perspective families from the deeds into a new list, then searched for each on The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine website. I checked listings for nearby Pine Grove and Varney cemeteries, as well as the First Parish Cemetery, which was the former village cemetery.

Many of our cemeteries were first associated with a particular church. Since Stowe House owner Rev. Benjamin Titcomb was the minister and part owner of a Baptist meeting site on the corner of Franklin and Federal Sts. from 1829 to 1839, I expanded my search to two cemeteries associated with Baptist churches, Maquoit and Growstown cemeteries.

I found Fannie C. Thompson and the families of eight Frances’s in Pine Grove Cemetery, the one family in Varney, and Frances Jones in Maquoit. Neither First Parish nor Growstown listed a Frances from our deeds.

In last week’s blog we read a 1901 Brunswick Telegraph article by someone calling themselves “M” recalling a pauper’s cemetery on Stetson St. Was the burying ground  associated with Rev. Titcomb’s church on nearby Franklin St?

On the map below Water, Stone, and Woodlawn Streets form a triangle at the top of the page. Greenwood goes straight down from the center of Woodlawn. Federal St. is on the left of the map. The cross streets are Franklin, Thompson (School), Pearl (Jordan Ave.), and Market Lane.

Greenwood StOr was it somewhere else altogether? Longtime Stetson St. resident, Priscilla Davis, showed me a map with Stetson St. becoming Greenwood and extending north to Woodlawn. This street would have run through the backyards of the houses currently on that side of Federal St. Late-19th- and early-20th-century maps don’t show Greenwood St., which could mean it was a traditional path that was never formally laid out. Davis also remembers her mother and a friend speak of Woodlawn Cemetery. Was there a Woodlawn Cemetery on Stetson St. where the poor buried their dead? Or did “M” really mean Woodlawn St. near the Town Farm Cemetery, perhaps euphemistically called Woodlawn Cemetery? Still, it seems doubtful that Frances is buried in either location because a first-name-only marker is usually placed near a monument engraved with the family surname. Would a family who used a pauper’s burying ground be able to afford such a monument?

My next step is to visit the graves on my list to see if any contain first-name markers and, if so, try to determine if there’s a Frances marker of a date earlier than the others on the site that might have been updated. I’ll also check the family graves without a Frances marker for gravestones similar to ours.

Next week I’ll report back on my gravesite visits, share my own thoughts on the likeliest candidates, suggest further research for other sleuths to conduct, and share more of your ideas.

So, dear Reader, please leave your comments and suggestions on the blog or Facebook pages as we continue to search for Frances.

Sources:

  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • Map of Cumberland County, Maine, from Actual Surveys. Baker CE, Sidney & Others, J. Chace, Jr., publisher, 1851
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe House Historic Structure Report, Volume I draft. Barba & Wheelock, Portland, ME, July 24, 2007
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe House Historic Structure Report, Volume II. Barba & Wheelock, Portland, ME, December 14, 2007
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine (also see https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx)
  • The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Desmarais, Barbara A., http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/index.html, 2014
  • 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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About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
This entry was posted in Brunswick History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Frances, Indeed

  1. Scott Hanson says:

    Have you considered that Frances might have been a dog? The crudeness of the carving is not of the quality of most surviving19th century gravestones in the area and the stone looks rather home-made. If no human candidate for Frances turns up in your research, I would consider the possibility that she was a pet.

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