A Rare Woman’s Name

So, yes, I love finding odd names since my name was so very different as I was growing up in the south. I usually just note that some parent got frisky with a name and move on but here’s one for the books – literally, as an author wrote a book in 2018 that highlighted a real woman with that name from 1600 New England.

Hazelelponah – yup, really. You can read more about the actual person on a blog post here. But in short, her name is actually pulled from the old testament (1 Chronicles 4 – Hazzelelponi). And another source says it means “she who gives shade, like the hazel tree”. The Hazelelphonah of New England was born in 1636 in Exeter, NH, and moved to Boston. Through several marriages Hazelelponah ended up with 25 children and stepchildren and lived to be 79.

I found the name in the Harpswell Congregational Church of Christ baptismal records. Joshua Purinton named a daughter Hazelelponah in 1782. Indications are that this daughter did not survive though. As her brother was also baptized the same day and may not have survived, perhaps we are looking at a set of twins.

It’s just a bit of excitement during record transcriptions. Hey, what can I say? Gotta have some fun!

Is It Legal?

Recently I dug into what is in the public domain and what is not. Please do not use this post as evidence in your quest for such proof as I’m certainly no lawyer. I will borrow heavily from the Stanford University Libraries section on this topic.

But here are the facts as I can determine:

Public domain is mostly about date of publication.

  1. the copyright has expired
  2. the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  3. the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain,
  4. copyright law does not protect this type of work.

1. So first, anything written and copyrighted before 1924 is now in the public domain (every year this advances one more year until 1977. Any works published after that have different rules.)

2. Unless, during the years leading up to 1964, the copyright holder applied for renewal. So just because it was published before 1924 does not automatically make the work public domain but in all likelihood it is.

3. Deliberately stating in the book that it is dedicated to the public domain.

4. It can’t be copyrighted. In general, copyright is reserved for whole works, art, books, music but not titles etc.

That’s pretty straightforward but once you start applying those rules as I had to do recently, it gets muddy.

It’s all about the websites, well, mostly. First, most of the vital records I collected were published by the Maine Historical Society in conjunction with the state. Those were published under a law passed in 1921. The copyright reads “under the authority” of MHS, not “copyrighted by” in reality. I have asked MHS for clarification and so far no one has weighed in on this. I’m not sure how long these books were published but at least until 1933. So I’m assuming that all of these books are public domain.

But websites do have their policies and familysearch.org states ” You may not post content from this site on another website or on a computer network without our permission.” I have queried them on that because they have digitized versions of public domain materials and they then do not own the copyright. I got several responses referring me to pages and other contact forms and in the end, have no response from them.

The problem concerns digitized versions of public domain materials. Can someone like Family Search or a university library or even Google digitized such works and then claim some sort of ownership or control? There’s an extensive conversation about this very topic here: https://blog.librarylaw.com/librarylaw/2004/07/the_public_doma.html

Also very pertinent to the discussion is Bridgeman vs Corel (1999) where the ruling was “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality.” So no, someone cannot claim copyright ownership just because they digitized something. That court case is about images, not books but I suspect it applies to digitized books.

But digitizing books can take the material into a different realm and I don’t know this has been tested in court. I received a book digitized from the original and it also had bookmarks added so contained an accurate table of contents. A well done job but does that take that source out of originality? I don’t know for sure but I cannot imagine a court allowing something like to be newly copyrighted.

Of course, website can state what their site policies are. The question is can they control what actually happens. That’s a no, just in case you were wondering. All they can do is block someone from using their site but even that can usually be overcome. As a web designer, I know this stuff! I just wonder what and how Familysearch.org expects to enforce compliance of their site policies as they sound a bit draconian to me. Also, a digital file may appear nearly identical to another so who knows how that digital file was created or where it came from.

As a web designer, writer and author of copyrighted books and websites, I’m fully aware I have no real solution to someone stealing my “stuff”. I simply don’t have the resources to try to go after someone and I can tell you from experience that many local judges just don’t have the knowledge to allow them to fairly oversee a proceeding with these type of issues. Technology is great but when you are the only one in the courtroom with actual knowledge and understanding of that technology, well, the outcome can be very dicey.

And genealogy itself comes with other issues – too many people think their family tree is private when vital records are never copyrighted and their tree is just a compilation of those vital records.

For most genealogy buffs, these issues never come up but when they do, it is a complicated world to navigate. I hope I’ve cleared up some questions and I then leave it up to you to determine whether you can do what you want with whatever you have. Good Luck! (and if anyone has any new information pertinent to this discussion, please let me know!)

Public Domain Resources

With the advent of permanent.org, a non-profit permanent storage website, I saw the opportunity to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I have collected nearly 150 digital files over the years, vital records of Maine, state and local histories, and genealogies. Now I can share them with you on a permanent basis.

This link, https://mainegenie.com/permanent_resources is a redirect link to the storage space. Since the base link will continue to change due to the addition of new files and future changes to urls on the website itself, I set up this redirect to be sure you can find all the files I’ve uploaded. (So remember if you bookmark the actual link, you may be missing new files.)

What is collected there is volumes in the public domain like vital records (23), city histories (40) – most done for the bicentennial, genealogies (34) either in the public domain or never copyrighted and others (3).

The files come from all over, google books and archive.org mainly and I’m presently trying to get clarification on other files that are in the public domain but uploaded to other sites that are not clear on the availability and use of materials that they do not hold the copyright to (another 37 books).

I have started a spreadsheet to document these volumes and need assistance in getting all the pertinent data entered. Volunteers please contact me!

Events Calendar

I’ve added a calendar of events to the site – for Maine events that have genealogical or historical value. I’ll also add in events that can be accessed in other states online like webinars from the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston and other resources that I find interesting.

The calendar is a public online calendar available at all times (and will be a little more up-to-date due to refresh rates).

Dr. Charles Alexander

John Alexander of Dresden died in 1840, leaving a will naming his living children and grandchildren. One listed was a Charles Alexander. John had only two sons, both of whom died in 1827 when they were 21 and 23. Though old enough to have children of their own, I have found no marriage record for either John or William nor any other references to any possible children.

I stumbled across a Dr. Charles Alexander of Farmington and Chesterville recently and in trying to figure out who he really was, discovered that he was born in Pittston 28 Apr 1824 and died 9 Oct 18971 according to his obituary.2

It would have been possible for either John or William to father a child then but they would have been either 18 or 20, a little young but possible. Someone posted on the findagrave page that he was the son of Benjamin and Betsey. So what is known about Dr. Charles Alexander?

His obituary says his family moved to Farmington when he was four – 1828, the year after the Alexander boys died. So again, making it possible that either was his father.

The only Benjamin Alexander that could possibly be his father was Benjamin, son of Hugh of Harpswell. He married Hannah Sewall and by 1820 was living in Chesterville. The 1830 Chesterville census, however, only lists one male child under 5 and there two earlier male births in the records; however, only one of Benjamin’s children can be found as an adult and the family doesn’t appear in the Maine censuses after 1830. According to Charles Nelson Sinnett, there was a son named Henry b.1825 who moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, “at an early age”.3 Henry’s birth is not among the records I found though. Close to the same birth year and both moved to Wisconsin. Can this be the same man? That “at an early age” is definitely different. Sinnett’s accounts are always fraught with errors, especially about folks who moved away from Maine. The birth place as Pittston for Charles makes it less likely this is the son of Benjamin and Hannah.

My strongest take away was that Wisconsin held allure from some folks in the Chesterville area!

Dr. Charles was educated at the Farmington and Yarmouth Academies. He attended several universities including Harvard and graduated from the “medical department of the university of the City of New York” in March of 1850. That same year he appears in the Orono census as Dr. Charles. He married Achsa Evelina Allen of Industry 11 Jan 18514. They did have a daughter, Agnes, who lived less than a year. Achsa died two years later in 1856.

He married again in 1861 to Charlotte Augusta Allen of New Sharon, Maine. He did serve in the Civil War, 1862- 1864, in the 16th Maine Infantry.5 In December of 1866, they moved to Wisconsin and had a child on 21 Nov 1870. Joseph Bullen Alexander ended up being Dr. Charles’ only surviving child but his mother died in 1875 when Joseph was only five.

Charles then married Charlotte’s sister, Harriet Josephine Frances Bullen in about 1880 in Wisconsin. She had had two previous husbands and had one daughter, Olive Adams. In fact, in the 1870 census, Harriet and Olive are living with Charles and Charlotte. Harriet is listed as a schoolteacher. She had divorced her last husband in 1865 in Maine.6

Harriet died 21 January 1894 so in the end Charles outlived three wives. He died three years later.

Charles’ son, Joseph Bullen Alexander, attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and then the University of Wisconsin for his law degree. He married Jessie May Bunker of Waterville in 1898 and accumulated an honorary Master of Arts degree from Colby College that same year. After some years in Wisconsin as a judge, he moved to Seattle in 1900, established a law practice, and served as assistant attorney general for Washington state for several years. He and Jessie never had children. He died 27 Feb 1949 and Jessie followed him in 1956.

His obituary states ” He is felicitous and clear in argument, thoroughly in earnest, full of the vigor of conviction, never abusive of his adversaries, imbued with highest courtesy and a foe worthy of the steel of the most able opponent. “7

In the end, I believe Dr. Charles was the son of one of John’s two sons, more likely of the oldest, John. Without any living descendants, the complete and final proof may never be had.

John Alexander of Dresden, Maine

As I continue my Alexander research, I’ve finally gotten some “closure” on John and Susannah Reed Alexander of Dresden, Maine.

At this moment I do not know if there are any living Alexander-surnamed descendants of John and Susannah but there are other descendants though possibly not many. They may well not know the story though due to the early deaths in the family!

John and Susannah married 17 Nov 17911 and by 1800 were living in Bowdoin with a wife and 5 girls. In June of that year he bought land from Matt Hussey in Dresden2 and then appears in the Dresden censuses of 1810, 1820 and 1830.

He also appears in a number of other records in Dresden – as Fish Warden in 18023, with a 32-ton schooner, the Stralston, with a son-in-law4 and as a subscriber to the Methodists along with a daughter in 18185.

In 1830 John is listed in the census along with his son-in-laws, Ebenezer Small, Josiah Hill and John Hathorn near him. At the time all three wives, Sally, Lavinia and Susanna were living. Ebenezer’s wife, Lavinia, died before October of 1831 when he remarried.6

In 1833 John sold his home except for two rooms, one cow, one horse and a yoke of oxen to Ebenezer. It was a life tenancy type of arrangement where Ebenezer was to furnish food, raiment, medical and nursing to both John and Susanna until their deaths.7 This life tenancy arrangement was canceled in Dec 1835 when John sold everything to Ebenezer.8 It can be assumed this is when John and Susanna moved in with their daughter, Louisa, as they married the next month.

The final note was the discovery of John’s will in Kennebec County.9 Since Dresden is in Lincoln County, it never occurred to me to look to Kennebec for any trace of this family. I asked Eleanor Everson, owner of the land where John and Susanna were buried, how far was the river/county border from her house – she said about a 1000 yards. The Alexanders and their grown children all resided on the city/county border! John died in Kennebec County because he was living with his daughter, Louisa, in Pittston.

In the will he gives all remaining property to Louisa, one dollar to his other surviving child, Sally Hill, and one dollar to each of his grandchildren. The exception was the $100 he left Gamaliel Small, son of Nancy, whom John may have raised after his parents’ deaths. One grandson was named Charles Alexander, perhaps the son of either John or William who both died in 1827.

The Dresden Vital Records 10 gives us much of the children’s records:

Bornn to John Alexander of Dresden and his wife Susanna
1 a daughter named Sally Alexander Jan 29th 1792 [author: d.24 May 1858]
2 a daughter named Elizabeth Alexander the 10th day of June 1794 [d.March 4th 1829]
3 a daughter names Susanna Alexander the 30th day of June 1796 [d.8 Sep 182211]
4 a daughter named Polley Alexander 13th day of May 1798 [d.2 Feb 182212]
5 a daughter named Lewyna [Lavinia] Alexander the 4th day of July 1800 [author: d.bef 1832]
5 a daughter named Nancy Alexander the 18th day of September 1802
7 a sonn named John Alexander Jun: the 8th day of May 1804
Recorded September 20th 1805 per John Polereczky Town Clerk
John Alexander Junr died in August 1827 John Polereczky Town Clerk
William Alexander died December 10th 1827 John Polereczky Town Clerk
Widow Nancy Small died March 4th 1829

So 4 daughters died between the ages of 24 and 34 and I find none of their children’s deaths during that decade. No deaths seem connected to childbirth but two of the Small husbands also died during these years as did both of the Alexander sons. Of course, there’s no proof how any of these died but since 6 of 8 of John and Susanna’s children died in that one decade, one cannot help but consider a genetic issue such as a heart problem. I have not been able to find all the death dates for the grandchildren though which could provide further proof of that theory. Tuberculosis could possibly be in play but I’ve seen other families with TB deaths and this does not appear similar.

One interesting tidbit is that three of the daughters married three Small brothers from Pownal, sons of Isaac and Susannah Sawyer Small.

John Alexander died 1 Feb 1840 and Susanna died 25 Mar 1835, having outlived 6 of their 8 children. The children and many grandchildren are buried in Dresden, Pittston and Randolph – handy for me now that I live across the river from Randolph! Next up – Charles, grandson of John. I think I found him!

At the right time…

I’ve been chasing information on John Alexander of Dresden for a number of years now. I kept asking folks about where the meetinghouse burial ground might have been because there was a deed1 that mentioned it. I assumed that might be where John and his wife, Susannah Reed, were buried. I just kept running into walls but on actual wall in the Pownalborough Courthouse is a map denoting the cemeteries of Dresden.

The first cemetery? The Alexander cemetery supposedly up the road from the Courthouse. But if it’s there, it’s certainly not obvious nor could I find anymore information about it.

Then the Dresden Historical Association contacted the Maine Old Cemetery Assocation asking for assistance with their cemeteries and stating the opening times for the old schoolhouse in Dresden. I popped over there on the next Sunday and was immediately shown a genealogy of the William Alexanders of Harpswell. Wrong I thought!

The real story of the Alexanders of Dresden is still unfolding but in the midst of the conversations that day, a lovely 90ish year old lady arrived. She dove directly into a book on Dresden that is not in print today nor is it or any mention of it findable online. Eleanor Everson is the delightful Dresden historian and she stated there were only 50 copies of that book made at the time. It is a bound book of typewritten pages and there it was, a page about John Alexander’s grave.

The dates were obviously not correct by my research so I returned home to finish that research and confirm what the truth was. John, his wife Susanna and their daughter, Sally Hill, were all buried there – as it turns out on Eleanor’s land!

“This cemetery is located in the pasture of the Richard Paige farm (H. Ellsworth Crocker, Trott, Small back to Alexander) – the south ­portion which is in Dresden. It is located on the top of a ridge -being the first full ridge on that farm as one approaches from the south. At the time of copying (April 8, 1979) there was a cleared path back to the area which lies some distance back from the road. These were the only two stones found at that time. Four field stones are in the area, with the surrounding area seemingly void of stones of this type. Also, several depressions, scattered about in no order, were observed. No apparent fencing or wall.

It is said that the bodies in this plot were moved from the sand bank on the Hathorn/Everson property many years ago. This sand bank is located between the Everson house and the house where the Alexanders lived (house no longer standing.)”

Eleanor said she had tried to read the old tombstones, a difficult task sometimes, but between her info and my research, I was able to piece out the correct birth years and death dates of both John and Susanna.

This tale is most remarkable due to the sheer bits of coincidence – having the right people in the right place at the right time. It’s a lesson in graves/cemeteries in a state that still allows burials on private land and how those graves/cemeteries can and do move.

In my quest to document the Alexanders of Maine, I’ve found numerous 1700s family members who I cannot definitely track back to a specific Alexander parent. John of Dresden is one of those though I believe he might well be the son of Robert and Elizabeth Potter Alexander of Bowdoin. Now I also know the end of his family’s story, a sad tale indeed and a story for another post.

Connections

Recently I was asked to write up something in honor of a cousin who I’ve gotten to know in the last few years. I finally got around to writing it up this morning, a bit ahead of the deadline (meaning I can’t post this until after August 23!) Here’s the core of the piece I wrote but expanded into a look at today’s society.

Today on Facebook my cousin, Dan, posted a bit about finding out that Tennessee Williams is a 5th cousin. He may be closer related to Dan than I am!

It’s all about connections. In this crazy mixed up world we live in now, it’s the connections that make it all worthwhile.

Back some years ago I found a DNA match to a guy named Dana Ward who was not a southerner. As a half southerner / half yankee, I figured he was related to me through my Maine family so I believe I contacted him first. We couldn’t see the exact relationship then but realized that he was a southern cousin instead. My Elam family was massive – making me related to possibly all Elams in the US now. Elams intermarried with Wards, a good bit closer to my family branch than other Elams. We are both descendants of Thomas Jefferson’s family (directly for me his uncle, not TJ). I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the time so we pretty much said we have to visit each other. Dan never made it back to Virginia while we there but I certainly made it to Maine.

Since then I have been graciously hosted by Dan in Maine twice. We have a lot in common – but mostly the insane idea of chasing our far flung families to see what we can dig up. Now that we live in Maine, we’ve already seen Dan and Julia once and plan on getting together for more fun, food and “family” in Unity.

We still aren’t completely sure how we are related but it really doesn’t matter. It’s those connections that save me. It’s finding my Maine cousins and moving north that has saved me. It’s knowing that no matter where I go, there is a cousin lurking in there somewhere.

In Dan’s case, that cousinship helped me to further my research and find friendship out in the countryside of Maine. His constant genealogy work continues to prod me to continue, to remind me how important these connections are.  

Expanding on that theme from my birthday essay above, I can link these connections with a few truisms of our life today.

When I was growing up, it was all about family. There were 10 first cousins with my sister as the oldest and me as the next to oldest. Sis watched us all coming into the world as she is seven years older than I. I remember the other cousins starting more with one 8 years younger. I baby sat some for the youngest ones.

There were a few family reunions I attended and still can’t remember who any of those more distant relatives were. It was a little surreal to have old folks saying hello ’cause they knew who I was and remembered my birth! But I had family.

My son, an only child, with only 2 first cousins at all and none from my side of the family, was raised as a military dependent. Which really means he was raised to be independent. There was no family and no one besides me for him to rely on during his pre-teen years. I didn’t realize how much this made his life so different from mine. When he was about 4, we were living on base in a housing area of mostly 3 and 4 bedroom homes. Which means we were in a 2 bedroom due to less children in the household. He had only one friend who also didn’t have a sibling. One day he was visibly upset. Being a very non-verbal child, I had to dig into the problem. He finally asked me why everyone else had a brother or sister. He was very sad, unusual for him.

He didn’t have the family I had and have grown away from. In that particular circumstance it also made him different from our neighbors. Today it’s actually getting common to not have all those cousins around with society becoming more transient and families moving to get jobs.

One thing I loved so much about the military was holidays. We were usually not near family so we had to do new things to compensate. I had a wonderful time inviting young people to come to my table, to join with us as we made new connections overseas.

I started my genealogy work some years ago kinda by accident. I wasn’t looking for connections at the time. I was indulging my desire to get away from an untenable living situation that I could not walk away from. It was my escape at first.

Then I went ahead and got a DNA test and started getting matches. Mostly Yankee matches. 2nd and 3rd cousins – and even reconnected with one of my Yankee first cousins I hadn’t talked to in decades. I found many cousins from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts; one came south on his way to his North Carolina home to meet in person. Most I met just through the tree on Ancestry.com and not in person.

Once I decided to write a book on the Wilsons of Maine, I started a new path and many new connections. I found, in the end, that I’m related to half of southern Maine and found how much of my identity was rooted in New England food and customs, handed down from my Bostonian great-grandfather. I traveled to Maine and fell in love – no, that’s not really correct – I felt like I had come home.

I established new connections, found new friends and family, and moved to Maine last summer. I am home now because I went looking for those new connections as many of my ‘new’ cousins have also done, thus leading to their journey on Ancestry.com.

If we are going to talk about what’s wrong with today’s society, this needs to be part of the discussion. We need connections and they are continually being destroyed in this century. So my question to you is, have you found new connections? Have you made an effort to find what floats your boat in a non-selfish way? Who do you call family? Who and what sustains you?

(originally posted http://deliawilson.com)

Home! In Maine.

Finally! I have taken a long hiatus after a surgery and the move to Maine but I’m back now. 

We moved to Maine last July and now that the daffodils are peeking their heads up, we are all coming out of the winter hibernation. So many things shut down during the winter that sometimes doing research is a bit iffy – especially if the weather turns. I’ve only gotten stuck once this year – on top of a ridge of hardened snow on a slippery road. Not too bad for this southerner but still….

I’m presently looking at my business and the accompanying websites to decide which direction I want to go. I cannot give up my web business as it still is our principal income beyond social security but with the move comes changes. I’m still putting the updated info online but at least finally have new business cards. I got my first Maine web design job recently – making me feel like we really are here!

In the meantime don’t hesitate to contact me about genealogy or compiling your family history!

Scotch-Irish of Maine in the 1700’s

Note: this chapter of The Uncommonly Common is about the Maine Scotch-Irish and their early life in Maine.

In trying to imagine what life must have been in the early 1700s, I found In trying to imagine what life must have been in the early 1700s, I found the Wheelers’ History of Topsham, Brunswick and Harpswell helpful with insights into our ancestors lives. We do know that when James Wilson, his wife Jean and children arrived there was almost nothing.

“In Brunswick…there were in 1718 no dwelling places for the families, except within the walls of the fort…A little before that time, three families settle in Topsham; all of whom were afterwards destroyed in Lovewell’s war.”1 The Wilsons may have arrived in 1719, only a year later. The Indian wars heated up in 1722 and we see Jean leaving the area with the children immediately afterwards.

Families lived far apart initially and only could travel by water as there were no inland avenues.

These Scotch Irish “were usually called “ wild Irish” by the native New-Englanders. It is said of these early settlers that “they used to peek out through a crack or partly opened door, to see whether their callers were friends or foes, and that the same habit of peeking out through a half-open door to see whom their callers may be, is noticed to this day in their descendants.” These settlers were nearly all poor, and often suffered for the necessaries of life. They had to work hard for their living, and dress in the plainest manner.”2 

They were understandably not happy: “During the period embraced by the Indian wars, the character of the people differed materially from what it afterwards was. Instead of gayety and dissipation, a melancholy spirit prevailed. Almost the only topic of conversation with the people was in regard to their troubles with the Indians and the individual difficulties of their situation. Their chief relaxation consisted in singing psalms and doggerel rhymes. The only news that reached them was of cruel murders, by the savages, of their friends and acquaintance, or else of the wonderful escapes and marvellous exploits of the latter.”3

Churches were not established until much later in the 1700s (though there were meeting houses at first) so they were again denied communal worship in the new world. I assume they were pragmatists – unlike the other colonial settlers at the time like the Pilgrims whose religion figured so prominently in their desire to settle (and conquer) the New World. Their life in Ireland would have been a preview for this lifestyle – since their communal and church life was dismantled before they left.

A few tales survive that frequently described one aspect of life in Maine – Indian encounters. One involved David Alexander, father of William who married James Wilson’s daughter, Jennet. William and a friend of him were set upon by Indians: “The boys’ outcries at length attracted the attention of the settlers up and down the river, and his father being first to comprehend the true state of things outstripped all others in going to the relief of his son, guided partially by the voice of the lad and partly by the zigzag trail of the furrowed earth which was a conspicuous mark and was made by the boy’s stubborn obstinacy and resistance. The father at length came in full sight of his son and was hastening to his rescue when the Indian, letting go the lad, fired, killing Mr. Alexander, who fell instantly dead. The son, the moment he saw his father fall, ran. and the Indian, fearing pursuit, desisted from attempting his recapture.”4

Bolton’s description of these Scotch Irish settlers is truthful even though a bit lyrical: “The Scotch Irish have never claimed that they brought literature or art to these shores. They knew little of the former and nothing of aesthetics. Diaries and letters of the migration period do not exist and perhaps never did exist. Let us speak frankly. Every race brings to our western civilization a gift of its own. These people from Ulster cared very little for the beautiful, with the single exception of the wonderful and beautiful Bible story.”5

He goes on to say: “The Scotch Irish could not see that the severe lines of a cabin are softened by a sumac against the south wall or a creeper at the corner. They did not trim the edge of the roadway that led to the front door. In short, utility required nothing of these things and utility was their law. For the same reason, if the soles of their feet were tough they saw small need of shoes in summer. Their bare feet, however, gave something of a shock to century-old New England. This rude development of taste was based possibly upon a primitive state of education.”6 

So utilitarian, no-frills, not educated (I prefer that to uneducated) – just survivors as our ancestors needed to be or else we would not be alive today. Bolton phrases this way: “It is evident that whether we view the Scotch Irish pioneers from the standpoint of education, or culture, or material success of the larger kind, they were in 1718 in their proper place when Cotton Mather consigned them to the frontier.”7

I only started looking at the role of the Scotch Irish after I had worked my way through numerous generations and thousands of descendants. I think this is why so much of early Maine was so hard for me to comprehend; it is a story very different from much of what we know about the early colonies. We are fed a diet of heroic ancestors and doings and never introduced to real life. Even the tragedy of Jamestown is more interesting. Talk of the “seasoning” that the English had to undergo, getting used to the heat of the south, the oft-told romanticized tale of Pocahontas – it all adds up to a marvelous tale. The story of James Oglethorpe, a social reformer, who founded the colony of Georgia is another tale that I, as a Georgia native, was raised with. Not only did he rescue debtors from prison but he also laid out a well-thought out city in Savannah. As anyone who been there knows, it is a gorgeous city with incredible history. Comparing those stories to Indian horrors? Not much of contest there! Once again, however, someone had to do it and the Scotch Irish settlers of early Maine performed their duty well.” target=”_blank”>Wheeler’s History of Brunswick,Topsham and Harpswell, Maine helpful with insights into our ancestors’ lives. We do know that when James Wilson, his wife Jean and children arrived there was almost nothing. 

“In Brunswick…there were in 1718 no dwelling places for the families, except within the walls of the fort…A little before that time, three families settle in Topsham; all of whom were afterwards destroyed in Lovewell’s war.”1 The Wilsons may have arrived in 1719, only a year later. The Indian wars heated up in 1722 and we see Jean Wilson leaving the area with the children immediately afterwards.

Families lived far apart initially and only could travel by water as there were no inland avenues.

These Scotch Irish “were usually called “ wild Irish” by the native New-Englanders. It is said of these early settlers that “they used to peek out through a crack or partly opened door, to see whether their callers were friends or foes, and that the same habit of peeking out through a half-open door to see whom their callers may be, is noticed to this day in their descendants.” These settlers were nearly all poor, and often suffered for the necessaries of life. They had to work hard for their living, and dress in the plainest manner.”2

They were understandably not happy: “During the period embraced by the Indian wars, the character of the people differed materially from what it afterwards was. Instead of gayety and dissipation, a melancholy spirit prevailed. Almost the only topic of conversation with the people was in regard to their troubles with the Indians and the individual difficulties of their situation. Their chief relaxation consisted in singing psalms and doggerel rhymes. The only news that reached them was of cruel murders, by the savages, of their friends and acquaintance, or else of the wonderful escapes and marvellous exploits of the latter.”3

Churches were not established until much later in the 1700s (though there were meeting houses at first) so they were again denied communal worship in the new world. I assume they were pragmatists – unlike the other colonial settlers at the time but like the Pilgrims whose religion figured so prominently in their desire to settle (and conquer) the New World. Their life in Ireland would have been a preview for this lifestyle – since their communal and church life was dismantled before they left.

A few tales survive that frequently described one aspect of life in Maine – Indian encounters. One involved David Alexander, father of William who married James Wilson’s daughter, Jennet. William and a friend of him were set upon by Indians:
“The boys’ outcries at length attracted the attention of the settlers up and down the river, and his father being first to comprehend the true state of things outstripped all others in going to the relief of his son, guided partially by the voice of the lad and partly by the zigzag trail of the furrowed earth which was a conspicuous mark and was made by the boy’s stubborn obstinacy and resistance. The father at length came in full sight of his son and was hastening to his rescue when the Indian, letting go the lad, fired, killing Mr. Alexander, who fell instantly dead. The son, the moment he saw his father fall, ran. and the Indian, fearing pursuit, desisted from attempting his recapture.”4

Bolton’s description of these Scotch Irish settlers is truthful even though a bit lyrical:
“The Scotch Irish have never claimed that they brought literature or art to these shores. They knew little of the former and nothing of aesthetics. Diaries and letters of the migration period do not  exist and perhaps never did exist. Let us speak frankly. Every race brings to our western civilization a gift of its own. These people from Ulster cared very little for the beautiful, with the single exception of the wonderful and beautiful Bible story.”5

He goes on to say:
“The Scotch Irish could not see that the severe lines of a cabin are softened by a sumac against the south wall or a creeper at the corner. They did not trim the edge of the roadway that led to the front
door. In short, utility required nothing of these things and utility was their law. For the same reason,
if the soles of their feet were tough they saw small need of shoes in summer. Their bare feet, however, gave something of a shock to century-old New England. This rude development of taste was based possibly upon a primitive state of education.”6

So utilitarian, no-frills, not educated (I prefer that to uneducated) – just survivors as our ancestors needed to be or else we would not be alive today. Bolton phrases this way: “It is evident that whether we view the Scotch Irish pioneers from the standpoint of education, or culture, or material success of the larger kind, they were in 1718 in their proper place when Cotton Mather consigned them to the frontier.”7

I only started looking at the role of the Scotch Irish after I had worked my way through numerous generations and thousands of descendants. I think this is why so much of early Maine was so hard for me to comprehend; it is a story very different from much of what we know about the early colonies. We are fed a diet of heroic ancestors and doings and never introduced to real life.

Even the tragedy of Jamestown is more interesting. Talk of the “seasoning” that the English had to undergo, getting used to the heat of the south, the oft-told romanticized tale of Pocahontas – it all adds up to a marvelous tale.

The story of James Oglethorpe, a social reformer, who founded the colony of Georgia is another tale that I, as a Georgia native, was raised with. Not only did he rescue debtors from prison but he also laid out a well-thought out city in Savannah. As anyone who been there knows, it is a gorgeous city with incredible history. 

Comparing those stories to Indian horrors? Not much of contest there! Once again, however,  someone had to do it and the Scotch Irish settlers of early Maine performed their duty well. 

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1William Durkee Williamson, The History of the State of Maine: from its First Discovery, AD 1602, to the Separation, AD 1820, Inclusive, Vol. II (Hallowell: Glazier, Masters & Co., 1832), 88.
2George Augustus Wheeler, M.D. and Henry Warren Wheeler, History of Topsham, Brunswick and Harpswell including the ancient territory known as Pejebscot (Boston: Alfred Mudge and Sons, Printers, 1878), 205.
3Wheeler, 206.
4Wheeler, 208
5Charles Knowles Bolton, Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America (Boston: Bacon and Brown, 1910), 301-302. 
6Bolton, 303.
7Bolton, 306.

The Uncommonly Common is still a work in process. If anyone finds any errors, I beg you to inform me!

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