In the part of Brunswick once called New Meadows, farmers milked cows, millers ground grain, masons laid bricks, and carriage makers fashioned iron wheels. These were the men. Bakers made bread, weavers spun cloth, butchers cut chickens, healers nursed the sick, and cooks fed the families and the workers besides. These were the women. And when the women socialized, still they worked, piecing quilts for the newlyweds among them.
In 1888 twenty-two women and girls from New Meadows and Harpswell made a signature quilt for my great-great-grandmother Mary Jane (Farrin) and her husband, Daniel Gorham Purinton. Mary Jane gave it to daughter Grace upon her 1918 marriage to Ernest Emery Doughty. And on Thanksgiving 1945, at Pine View Farm where all three women then resided, Grace gave the quilt to her new niece Ruth (Davis), recently married to David Franklin Purinton.
And, when these New Meadows women and men were done with quilting and farming and everything else in daily life, many were laid to rest in New Meadows Cemetery.
I found ten of the quilt’s signatories in New Meadows Cemetery, which would have been visible from the Purinton homestead. Because the neighborhood families were so intertwined, at least six of the women were related. Beginning with Mary Jane, these were:
- Mary Jane (Farrin) Purrinton (1862-1942)
- Agnes Given (Marriner) Farrin (1830-1911), her mother
- Flora Ellen Purrinton (1850-1927), her sister-in-law
- Ada Paulina (Purrinton) Holbrook (1855-1933), her sister-in-law
- Paulina Sybil (Marriner) Purrinton (1822-1896), her mother-in-law
- Lettie (Marriner) Woodward (1824-1910), her husband’s aunt
And when the New Meadows neighborhood and its connections to the Harpswells was ended, the farm buildings were razed or burned. The people moved to other neighborhoods, even other towns, and New Meadows disappeared.
Still, every time I visit New Meadows Cemetery I feel as if I’m among my family, where they lived and worked and loved. That’s because in the days before cars, when one’s place of work was the family farm or the gristmill by the brook, neighbors became family and family became neighbors. If you want to know your ancestors, go to the place they are buried. You may find their friends. You may find their kin. And, along the way, you may find yourself.
- Daniel Gorham Purrinton’s generation spelled “Purrinton” name with 2 “r’s” but subsequent generations spelled the name “Purinton.”
- Mary Jane also signed a quilt square.
- The Naval Air Station Brunswick encompassed nearly 90% of the original thousand-acre Town Commons and expanded further into the New Meadows neighborhood after World War II.
- Ruth (Davis) Purinton interview
- New Meadows Cemetery, Purinton Road, Brunswick, Maine
- Purinton family photos in possession of Barbara A. Desmarais
- Purinton genealogy by Barbara A. Desmarais