by Deborah Nowers
This is my pitch for the library. We received a request for information on Joseph Blanchard Ames who was the grandfather or great-grandfather of the requester’s grandmother Marie Donaldson Ames. He requested genealogy of Joseph Blanchard Ames in order to determine how the family got from Marshfield, MA to Maine.
Using the FindAGrave website, one of my colleagues found that Joseph Blanchard Ames was the father of Marie Donaldson Ames. Joseph was born in Searsport on January 30, 1846–that was the Maine connection—and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1915. His parents were Elisha Ames born in Marshfield, Massachusetts and Orilla B. (Parker) Ames born 12 August 1823 in Maine (town unknown). He speculated that the parents had lived in Maine at some time and then moved to Massachusetts. That was as far as he got before he ran out of time.
The research question became, “Why was Joseph born in Searsport?” Information on the internet provided no help. Because I knew there was an Ames family on Islesboro, I looked there. First searching the library’s copy of John Pendleton Farrow’s History of Islesborough., Maine. The Ames family came from Marshfield, Massachusetts, so probably relatives, but Elisha was not included. Since Joseph was reportedly born in Searsport, I next checked the published vital records in the reading room. It did not include a record of his birth. I had reached a dead end on Ames.
I then decided to search for his mother, since she was the one born in Maine. I hoped her uncommon first name—Orilla—would help. I went back to Searsport. There was no listing for Orilla B. Parker in the index, but Orilla B. Park was there. There was just one entry, in the Church Members in Searsport, “Orilla B. Park Dist [dismissed] to Mt. Vernon Chh Boston Aug. 25, 1844.” Because Searsport was incorporated after Orilla’s birth, I then searched in Prospect, Searsport’s mother town. And there she was in the published Vital Records, “Orilla B. daughter of Mr. Joseph & Mrs. Catherine Park born Augt. 17th 1824.” The transcription on FindAGrave had a different last name and birth date, but with no photograph of the stone it is unclear where the error lies. Joseph and Catherine’s marriage record in Prospect gives her maiden name Griffin.
From the records, we can make a narrative. Orilla B. Park was born in Prospect to Joseph and Catherine (Griffin) Park. The family likely lived on the west side of Prospect that became part of Searsport. Orilla was a member of the Church in Searsport when she was dismissed to the Mt. Vernon Church in Boston in 1844. The next year on April 3, 1845, she married Elisha Ames in Boston. It is likely that she was with or went home to her mother to have her baby Joseph Blanchard in January 1846.
Although many genealogical records have been transcribed and digitized for the internet, many have not. Small towns in Maine will be low priority for these efforts for some time. The record you need, may well exist only in a book, likely in a library. The Collection in the Phillips Library, had all I needed to answer this query.
By John Golden
Recently we received a request from a gentleman who is writing an article about the ST. FRANCES or ST. FRANCIS.
An initial search of an online local database of ships built in Maine didn’t reveal any record of a ship named ST. FRANCES or ST. FRANCIS.
Moving on to another resource, Merchant Sail, by William Armstrong Fairburn, there indeed was a ship named ST. FRANCES built in May of 1882 by John McDonald in Bath, Maine. The paragraph went on to explain that the ST. FRANCES was a wooden ship of 1,898 tons and three masts built for Flint and Co. (New York). The ship was sold in October 1899 to the city of San Francisco. It was resold to salmon packers in 1909 and finally wrecked in Alaska, while engaged in this trade on May 14, 1917 at the age of thirty-five.
Checking another resource, Record of American and Foreign Shipping, confirmed the basic information about the ship (owner and size and date built).
Merchant Sail, in a later volume had a biography of John McDonald which listed the ship as the ST. FRANCIS. The ship described was the same one as the specifications and date of construction matched. It appears that the spelling of the ship’s name was probably misspelled in some documentation.
by Deborah Nowers
This is a story that starts and ends with PMM… well, it never ends, because it is a genealogy story.
It began with a request to look at the history of the Fowler-True-Ross House at the museum. I described that project in the first issue of this newsletter last spring. An early owner of the property where the Fowler house now stands–and where the Phillips Library was built—was Robert Lord Sargent. He was a land speculator and sold the property after a year. My research might have ended here if internet sources hadn’t listed his wife as Mary Dodge, who—as only a family researcher would know—was my husband Henry’s first cousin 5 times removed. I had been researching the descendants in that family.
This Mary Dodge appeared again as I prepared a sketch of her father Simon Dodge, Jr. for the Maine Genealogical Society’s project to document all individuals enumerated in Maine for the first U. S. Census in 1790. The sketch would outline the head of household and identify his or her spouse and children. The History of Islesborough, where the Dodges lived, indicated that Simon’s daughter Mary married “_____ Sargent.” Someone had written “Robert L.” in the copy at the Belfast Library. Now there was a challenge no genealogist could ignore. Could I prove it was Robert Lord Sargent? That search involved looking at every vital record I could find on the family in Prospect (now Searsport), Belfast and Monroe. Deeds documented his purchase and sale of land and often included his wife Mary. U. S. Census records for 1800 in Prospect, 1810 and 1820 in Belfast, and 1830 and 1840 in Monroe showed the family’s movement, but only the head of household listed by name.
Naming patterns often give hints to unknown family connections. Robert and Mary named children for themselves—Robert and Polly and for his father—Winthrop. More helpful was two daughters named Experience—the name of Mary Dodge’s oldest sister—and Noah D., her oldest brother.
I tried looking at Robert’s life for some hint. From the deeds, it was clear he was buying and selling land. He was referred to as “Deacon” in 1814 when his eldest daughter died in Belfast. An internet search turned up a transcript of a letter Robert had written to his son Winthrop and family in 1831 from Mobile, Alabama. He is clearly in financial trouble and was not expecting to see them again. “When we Shall meet togher again none knows but the LORD. If you wish to see me your father Remember you must Ask leave of GOD But let us be contened we shall Se and know one another in a nother State of Existence where my hopes and wishes will be fully satisfied forever.” He went on to say that he had gifts for Moses, Noah and Johnson, but “I have not have Cash Enough to come home as i whant to.” He also refers to his debts in Maine. “Pray for me and be kind to your mother. I send my Love to hir and you all tell Mr. Alline and all I owe that I have hopes to come home able to pay them of before I Die.”
It is not common to see a long letter from 1831 that shows the personality of the research subject and I was delighted. I tried to reach the person who had posted the transcript. I received no reply and filed the information away. Unfortunately, I was no closer to identifying Robert’s wife Mary.
I did wonder if Robert had returned. He was enumerated in Monroe with Mary in the 1840 census, but I know from other families, that he may not have been living there. Mary is enumerated in 1850 with her daughter Experience Knight, so he had likely died by then. Mary died in 1851. The Republican Journal published a death notice on 7 March 1851 and her gravestone stands in Mt. Rest Cemetery in Monroe.
This daughter Experience was the key to Identifying Mary’s family. It gave me my only piece of documentation. Twice married Experience (Sargent) (Knight) Curtis died in Monroe 11 February 1901. Her death certificate lists the names of her parents—Robert Sargent and Mary Dodge. Although it is not a primary document, I finally had some actual documentation from the family. I was satisfied.
This project also demonstrates my weakness as a researcher; my failure to seek out every possible source. I had used the vital records in the Phillips Library, the Jones Collection of records, published histories, and the information on the Fowler House. I had searched the Hancock and Waldo County Deeds and the U.S. Census. But I hadn’t looked really close at hand, at the Phillips Library “Family Boxes.” There in the “S” box was a folder for Thomas W. Sargent. In the folder, carefully sleeved in plastic was Robert’s letter to his family from 1831. It wouldn’t have helped in my search for Mary’s maiden name, but I could make corrections to the transcript. It also shows the material that is available to enrich our understanding of the early local families. I won’t neglect those boxes in the future!
John Golden, PMM Library Researcher
In mid-November, a gentleman from Pasadena, CA stopped by the Library and inquired about a Frank Carver, master of the ship BANGALORE. Captain Carver was a long lost relative.
It seems that the family legend had it that Captain Carver was sailing to Singapore in 1897 when there was a mutiny on board the Bangalore led by the First Mate. The legend continues that Carver physically threw the 1st Mate overboard and ended the mutiny. Upon arriving at their destination of Singapore, Carver was stripped of command by the ship’s owners because of his actions. Carver then continued on to Seattle and eventually California where his family ran a dairy farm. Rumor has it that Carver spent much of his days imbibing at the local saloon and was a bit of a holy terror to his grandchildren.
The Carvers had a history in Searsport so it was pretty easy to find information on Frank. Captain Carver died in Artesia, California on May 6, 1939 at the age of 76 years. On March 6 of that year, he and his wife Nettie celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Captain Carver’s obituary listed his many voyages and ships. The obituary’s final paragraph states “The captain’s last command was the steel three sky-sail-yard ship, Bangalore, in which he went from New York to Java, Manila and London. The Bangalore, later an American ship, was then under British flag and after completing his voyage in her, Captain Carver retired from sea life.” Another obituary from the Artesia News states that “In 1895 the family came to Artesia where Mrs. Carver’s father and mother had purchased the home on Pioneer Blvd., where they have lived most of the years since. In 1896, leaving the family in Artesia, he made his last voyage on the British Clipper, Bangalore, from New York to the Philippine Islands and home.” Neither obituary made mention of any mutiny. Researching the ship’s history we could find no indication of any mutiny during it’s time at sea. The ship was lost at sea in 1908 carrying a load of coal from Norfolk, VA to Honolulu.
The BANGALORE itself had a history tied to Searsport. A number of Searsport folks bought the vessel and established the Maine Navigation Company in 1896. In addition to Frank Carver, her Searsport captains were Albert N. Blanchard, 1897-1898, 1900, 1901-1904, 1905, 1906; and Phineas Banning Blanchard 1903-1908. The BANGALORE was lost in a collision at sea in 1908.
NOTE: There is a scale model of the BANGALORE in the lobby of the Stephen Phillips Library, as well as three paintings, eleven photographs and a set of her plans in the Museum collection.
By Deborah Nowers, Library Research Volunteer
The Stephen Phillips Memorial Library is a hidden gem on Church Street. The library is a research non-circulating collection that includes information not easily found other places. The library is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 1 pm with volunteer researchers who like to dig into the collections. It is best to call ahead, 207-548-2529 x212 or email email@example.com, to be sure we will be there and give us an idea of what you are seeking.
As you would expect, we have books! In addition to books on a variety of maritime subjects, the collection includes vital record books, genealogies and town histories from all over New England and Eastern Canada.
There are also extensive genealogical collections that include the research files of a number of prominent local researchers—the largest from Priscilla Alden Jones. The finding aid for the genealogical collections, include over 1200 family names in six collections. In addition thirty-eight family boxes have folders with surprises including family photographs, bible records, wedding invitations….whatever a family might have saved. There are finding aides for these boxes, but browsing is much more fun.
If you are interested in Searsport history, the collection includes census records, gravestone transcriptions, town records including town reports and tax records. Want to track how old your house is or who lived in it? We have answers!
We also have real bound copies of the Belfast Republican Journal beginning with its first issue in 1820. These are very fragile, so we provide microfilm copies of the paper. We feel it is our mission to preserve, and provide access, this historical perspective of life in Waldo County. One of our researchers is transcribing the shipping news from this paper, and we all benefit from his thorough combing of the paper’s contents.
Finally, we are a marine museum and the marine collections are a treasure trove for research. The largest collection is the Colcord Papers, 76 boxes full of letters, documents, logs and first person accounts from 1825 to 1903 related to the Colcords, a Searsport seafaring family. The sixteen boxes of the Witherle Collection include the accounts and papers of the Castine general store Hook & Witherle and its succeeding configurations from 1808 to 1875. The store supplied Castine residents and fishermen, acted as a chandlery and expanded to vessel management, international trade and shipbuilding. Records from these endeavors are included.
Want to research the career and fate of a sea captain or coastal or deep sea vessel, or the cargo and crew who shipped aboard a specific ship, our collection of vessel papers, logbooks and account books. Two notable researchers have made some inroads into the collection: Col. Frederick Frasier Black published the photographs and brief biographical sketches of Searsport Sea Captains and Robert Applebee researched vessels built in and sailed from Maine by town and region.
There is no charge to use the library and we welcome visitors, local and far flung, to do research in our pleasant reading room.