Category: Alexanders

Delia Speaks

The Pejepscot Genealogical Society (PGS) will hold its next meeting in the Morrell Mtg Rm of the Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME on Sun, March 8, 2020 at 2 pm.   PGS member Delia Wilson Lunsford will present ” One Name Genealogy Projects“.  This will include how to research all folks in a geographical area with the same surname as a way to find your family’s earliest roots.  Using online resources and others, she will recommend how to keep track of individuals/names, how to distinguish different families, and how to place name “orphans” into a family tree.  Delia has been researching her own Maine family, the Wilsons and the Alexanders, in recent years.  

Our new monthly theme for March is “Irish” so feel free to share a quick family “Irish” story at our gathering after the presentation!  Also, you are welcome to bring with you an Irish food item to share!  Our monthly refreshment volunteer will bring drinks and paper products to share. 

This link to the presentation PDF will be active soon.

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.

The Alexanders of Maine

The Alexanders and their descendants make up a fair amount of the Wilson family tree. I had long thought  that my next book would be about them and I’m proceeding with that idea.

One thing that makes them interesting is not the branch that everyone knows but the other Alexanders in Maine. I started looking at what I’ve unearthed so far and trying to piece together some sort of coherent story.  To date this is where my research has gotten to.

Since births were not recorded in early Topsham records and since many marriages were also not recorded, there are families whose early origins are not known. A good example of this is the Alexanders of Topsham (and thus of Bowdoin and Litchfield).

All early Topsham records list a William Alexander. It is believed that David Alexander was the father of all the Alexanders who arrived in southern Maine. As David’s son William settled in Harpswell, we can be sure this William is not David’s son. So was he his grandson or was he the son of another Alexander that came to Maine?

DeAlva Stanwood Alexander specifically states “James Alexander, whose farm was entered of record in Topsham in 1738, was his son, probably younger than William.” His son, meaning David’s son. No land was deeded to settlers in Topsham until the 1750’s / 1760’s but prospective land owners were required to settle the land and erect buildings long before that in order to qualify for ownership.

The earliest, but undated, list of the Topsham settlers was created prior to 1743 because James Wilson who died in 1743 is included on that list. But only William is the only Alexander included in that list.

There is an index for the Pejebscot Papers and it does not list a James or J Alexander. The index was created after DeAlva Stanwood wrote his book in 1898 and there are documented missing papers now. No only that but there are multiple copies of some things and they rarely ever state it to be the first / original or a copy. The papers are only losely organized and I’ve dug into them at least three times so far. More research is needed.

So we have no proof at all that a James existed besides DeAlva’s mention. We also have DeAlva’s statement that he thinks James Wilson died prior to 1731 so he obviously never saw the undated “List of Settlers who were to be at Topsham (Some of Whom Came)” that lists both James Wilson and William Alexander.”

One intriguing clue not available to DeAlva comes from Bolton’s Scotch-Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America. He compiled some lists of some of the settlers who did come on the Temple ships. Among those is listed a James Wilson, a Jean Wilson and four children, the father of Jennet who was not born in Maine and who did marry William Alexander of Harpswell.

The Alexanders on that list on page 233?

_____ Alexander, wife and four children
David Alexander and son
William Alexander

That’s a total of 9 Alexanders who came to Merrymeeting Bay. I do believe he counted some twice but still not the same picture as David and sons James and William only.

The facts are these:

1) There was a William Alexander who lived in Topsham. He is listed on all the early and later lists.
2) There was at least one Robert Alexander is also listed and deeded with property in Topsham before 1770.
3) There was one George Alexander who supposedly died in Topsham about 1735. His two children were born in Georgetown in 1728 and 1732.
3) There are mentions of 2 Roberts both born about 1740, one who had a family in Topsham and one in Bowdoin.
4) There was a John Alexander born before 1740 who married a Combs in Bowdoin.
5) And I found a Margaret who married Robert Gower in 1761, making her birth probably prior to 1740. Considering how late many of the early marriages took place she could easily be born prior to 1730 or even 1720. She is stated to be the sister of Robert in Topsham.
6) A Jean Alexander married Robert Douglas in 1762 in Topsham.

In the subsequent generations, I have turned up multiple Alexanders whose ancestry is unknown, leaving me to believe there might have been more early Alexanders as yet undiscovered.

Stay tuned!

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