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.

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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. He and his brother Moses were soldiers attached to the fort overlooking the Androscoggin River. In 1722, these 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 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 had attained the rank of lieutenant and another Samuel (Samuel Jr), likely his son, was a sentinel at the fort. Samuel Jr 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

Sources:

  • Sloop photo, http://all-free-download.com
  • Ancestry.com: Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriage)
  • Ancestry.com: Eaton Family in America, mv.ancestry.com/viewer/8fdfa8d0-d858-48b9-8994-610fa38d7222/9371648/-708464078. Accessed Nov. 18, 2016.
  • 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 https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx
  • 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’, http://community.curtislibrary.com/CML/wheeler/index.html
  • The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators & the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier, Colin Woodard, Penguin Books, 2005
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About Barbara Desmarais

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

2 Responses to Alphabet Soup

  1. Deb Gould says:

    The most amazing part? Samuel Eaton hiding the letter “in his hair.” I can’t imagine what his hair looked like if he could hide an eelskin packet in there…Yikes!

    • Deb, I picture the missive as a small note tightly rolled into a small eelskin packet. I bet he wore his hair in a queue and tucked the packet in the hair at the back of his head, above the leather holding his ponytail together. Either that, or a rat’s nest of hair…

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