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.
By John Golden
On September 8-9, 1900 (Saturday to Sunday), a category 4 hurricane (130-140 mph winds) struck the city of Galveston, Texas. There were 6,000 to 8,000 people killed. It was the worst hurricane to ever strike the United States mainland.
Galveston was cut off from the rest of the country. The highest elevation was 9 feet above sea level. The storm had a 15 foot storm surge which obliterated the city. There was no radio or television, only telephone and telegraph service, neither of which was working after the storm.
The Republican Journal was the local newspaper in the Belfast/ Searsport area and they first reported on the storm in the September 13, 1900 issue with the headline “Galveston Storm Swept” dateline Galveston, Texas, Sept. 10. The initial estimates were 600 to 1,500 lives lost. In a later update from the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Relief Train outside of Galveston, the estimate was changed to “not less than 5,000 and may reach 10,000”. The Journal reported that “on Sunday morning the streets were lined with wounded and half-clad people. Fifteen men, all that remained of a company of 100 soldiers at the beach barracks marched down the street this morning.” The streets on the bay front were fully under 3 feet of water. A third update in the same issue stated that “The loss of life will be upward of 5,000 and that $40,000,000 will no more than cover the damage to property.” It is interesting to note that there were at least 3 updates to the same column in the paper three days after the initial report was received.
The September 20 issue had no additional information about the storm but published a short article entitled “About Galveston.” The article discusses other like disasters in the Gulf specifically a storm in August of 1856 which submerged Last Island off of the southern Louisiana coast. About 200 lives were lost in that storm.
The September 27 issue also had no information about the storm except for a short paragraph about cremation. “The cremation of the victims of the flood at Galveston recalls the fact that during the yellow fever epidemic at New Orleans in 1857 it was found necessary to burn the dead. The deaths numbered for a time some three hundred a day, and internment was impossible.”
October 4 Issue: Short paragraph: “Miss Helen Gould notified the army officials in New York that she would send, at her expense, 50,000 rations to distressed families in Galveston and the hurricane swept district.”
There is also a collection of press dispatches entitled “Freaks of the Galveston Storm.” One dispatch tells of two women who rode a wooden bathtub out into the Gulf of Mexico and returned the following day on the incoming tide. Another story tells of a young boy found at his home after the water had subsided “trying to scrape with his bare hands graves in the sand for his father, mother and sisters.”
A dispatch from The Chicago Times-Herald ran as follows, “Ray Ayers, an 8-year-old boy, unwittingly rescued his sister’s two babies during the flood. He was floating on a raft in Galveston when he passed a box with the two children in it. He seized them, but the weight was too heavy for his raft, and so he placed them on two bales of hay on top of a floating shed. When he found his sister he learned that her children were lost, and when a searching party discovered them they were sleeping, unconscious of their danger.”
October 18 – Mentions that a letter will be published next week from a correspondent “Giving a full and vivid account of the Galveston disaster.”
October 25 – The Red Cross Work in Texas Dateline: October 6, 1900. A letter from a member of Miss Clara Barton’s staff. Conditions were far worse than anticipated and the author failed to write anything for a month due to the overwhelming aid work that needed to be done. She goes on to say that the devastation as described by “yellow” journalists was true. She describes funeral pyres with “bodies stacked like cord-wood, black and white together, irrespective of age, sex or previous condition; when ghouls in human shape prowled cutting off ears and fingers for the jewelry.” At one point the bodies were put on barges and dumped in the ocean only to come back with the tide while attracting large numbers of sharks. She spends some time describing what it must have been like to have “the Gulf of Mexico stealing up into your dooryard.” Galveston’s cemeteries were not spared the devastation. Vaults were stripped of their contents where the floating boxes went out to sea. The Galveston News contained a novel advertisement; “A gentleman desires information concerning a plush covered coffin, containing a corpse, which was found on his premises, on the open prairie, 21 miles distant.” Galveston was a giant pile of kindling wood and scattered bricks. Many were stripped of clothing by the raging wind. She describes a walk where “I counted the remains of nineteen sewing machines within the space of half a block; several pianos, children’s hobby-horses, desks and trunks, now rifled of their contents, shreds of lace curtains and splintered furniture.” She concludes with a description of the many fires at night “each the cremation of human bodies and ruined homes.”
Following this article, there was another article entitled “GALVESTON A MONTH AFTER THE STORM.” Dateline: October 12, 1900. The article, apparently by the same author as the October 6 article, discusses how the people of Galveston first coped with the disaster and now how they are dealing with it on a day to day basis. As the weather turned colder there was a great need for warm clothing. The climate of Galveston is not tropical and there is a need for blankets and outerwear. Most of the remaining population lives in tents or halls or remaining structures with friends and family.
“Clara Barton has submitted plans for a four room cottage that can house 12 people. She believes that she can obtain the materials for approximately $200,000 and that they can be erected at a cost of $50,000.” It was estimated that 4,000 dwellings and their contents were washed away. The author continues by listing the basic materials required for each new dwelling along with items such as bedding, cutlery, stoves, chairs, tables etc.
November 22 – Final hurricane article in the Republican Journal. Dateline: Galveston, Texas, October 5, 1900. The article related how the Red Cross and the City of Galveston took care of the many orphans of the storm. Biographies of the individuals taking care of the children were documented. The article continues with a mention of the upcoming Christmas Holiday and the toys that the children will be receiving. The article ends with a description of how the Red Cross is helping the farmers of the area and how Clara Barton gave one thousand dollars to strawberry growers of the region for plants.
The city eventually recovered and erected a seawall in the bay to protect it against further storms and storm surges.