Monday, March 28, 2022


The Ricker Family: 
Their connection to Poland Spring 

The Beginnings

The Ricker (Ricard) brothers, George and Maturin who settled in Dover, Strafford County, New Hampshire immigrated to the Colonies by the mid-to-late 1600’s. They were the sons of Noel Ricard and his second wife, Jeanne Marquand from St. Brelade Parish on the Isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands, categorized as Crown Dependencies of the United Kingdom, are an archipelago in the English Channel situated about 14 miles off the coast of Normandy.[i] George, the elder of the two brothers, came first. Traditionally it is believed that he was indebted to Parson Reynar for his passage. When the amount for his passage was worked off, George’s wages brought his brother to the Colonies. The brothers were very close. It was once reported they said they wanted to die together as they could not stand being alive without each other.

The brothers settled together. John Wentworth conveyed land to George in 1673 and in 1677 William Wentworth conveyed land to him as well. Both parcels were previously part of Elder William Wentworth’s estate. Peter Coffin conveyed 12 acres of land to Maturin in 1682 for £45. This area was known as Cochecho Marsh, most of which is now in Rollingsford located at the upper end of Garrison Hill. The ‘cartway’ to this area is known today as Garrison Hill Road or Central Avenue.[ii]

In an unfortunate turn, Fate granted their desire as both brothers were killed 4 June 1706. George, as he was running toward Heard’s Garrison. Maturin was in his field with his son Noah. The Indians killed Maturin and took Noah captive to French Canada. Noah, baptized soon after his capture as Jean Francois Ricard, was schooled in the French way of life and later became a priest staying in Canada his entire life.

Maturin and his unknown wife, [some researchers believe he married Rebecca Shaw, daughter of Jonathan Shaw and Rose Otis] had 4 children. Three sons, Maturin, Jr. married Lucy Wallingford, Noah, became Jean Francois Ricard, Joseph who married first to Elizabeth Garland and second, Mary May and a daughter, Sarah who married John Wingate. [iii]

Although, Maturin’s grandchildren migrated to various parts of New England, it was Joseph’s son Jabez who migrated out of the immediate area into central Maine carrying the Ricker name into history.

Jabez married 14 May 1761 to Mary “Molly” Wentworth in Berwick, Maine. She was the daughter of Samuel Wentworth and Joanna Roberts. Mary was the great granddaughter of Elder William Wentworth and Colonial Governor Thomas Roberts, both prominent men in the settlement of Dover. John and Mary had 10 children, 4 sons, Timothy, Samuel, Wentworth, and Joseph as well as 6 daughters, Joanna, Molly, Anna, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Phebe. Ten years later when Joseph died, Jabez inherited the approximately 107 acres of land he currently dwelled on. He then sold it for £3000.

Moving Eastward

Jabez and Mary with their children headed out to Alfred [some research indicated he settled in Sanford first] sometime after his father died. During the years he was in Alfred, he kept 94 acres of land and had partial ownership of a mill. His desire was to set up roots and farm his property. His farm was next door to the Shaker community, and it seems they had different ideas. The sect was looking to expand their community holdings. In 1793, the leader of the sect approached Jabez to tell him he must give his land to them because God says it is so. Jabez was not in the frame of mind to just pass over 94 acres to this religious sect. Negotiations were done, money was exchanged, and the Shakers got the land. Jabez and family packed up and moved again.

Shaker Village at Alfred, Maine
     Information on Shaker history can be found at
     shakers.htm. In 1783, the Shakers had set up several
     enclaves throughout New England including in Alfred as          pictured. It appears they would not leave Jabez and his
     family alone. They wanted 
the ownership of Jabez’s portion
     of the mill and tried to persuade him to join their 
group so
     they could take the mill as community property, but he refused. In a different approach, they offered him 300 acres of land that originally belonged to a recent convert for the exchange of the mill. The land was in the Bakerstown Plantation which is now Poland in Androscoggin County, Maine. Between 1793 and 1794 he went to Bakerstown to check out the land. Jabez liked what he saw and agreed to the swap. Unbeknownst to him, this action started him and future generations of his family on the path to prosperity and prominence. The new property was later called “Ricker Hill”.

Developing the Inn

When Jabez arrived, the area was desolate. There was only one framed house, no roads, and no near neighbors. But it was halfway to Portland where farmers took their produce. According to later generations when asked why this area was developed the story told was that soon after he was settled, Jabez found people knocking on his door wanting to rent a place to stay. It seems this was the half-way point to Portland or the White Mountains where the farmers were taking their crops to market. This led him to develop his property as an inn. With Jabez’s three sons, this truly became a family endeavor. When In 1797, Jabez’s son Wentworth developed the property, his son Joseph became the town’s first blacksmith and made all the nails used in the construction of the inn. Jabez’s third son Samuel developed other buildings and a large barn in 1813. This activity went into creating the Wentworth Ricker Inn which started the tradition of running a hotel or inn at this location for many years. When Wentworth retired in 1834, his 25-year-old son Hiram took charge of the inn.

Hiram Ricker, the grandson of Jabez and son of Wentworth Ricker had been chronically ill for most of his adult life with dyspepsia.[iv] One day in 1844, he found himself overseeing his workers near a spring at the edge of the property. For ten days, he drank only from this spring. He discovered he became cured of his illness. Although other family members drank from this spring, this was the first sign of its medicinal properties. During the years from 1845 to 1859, the family began sharing the water. In 1859, they saw the first commercial sale of this water. As their marketing reached more people, the resort with its activities and the water with its health benefits built the Ricker’s enterprise and put the formerly sleepy village of Poland on the map. [Although the water is called Poland Springs, the name of the town is Poland. Poland Springs, the area where the Ricker family produced and bottled the water, is actually a section of the town 2 miles southeast of Poland proper.]

Hiram’s management was full of problems and financial issues. As he tried to resolve his problems he seemed to be running into bad luck at every turn. One devastating development was the railroad. Previously, the farmers and others traveling to their destination by horse and wagon stopped at the Inn for an overnight rest. By 1849, the railroad expanded their tracks to Poland and by 1853, the lines continued from Montréal to coastal Maine. This caused a sharp decline in the business since there was no longer a need for travelers to stop at the Inn. The train took less than half a day where the earlier methods of transportation would require an overnight stop in Poland. Situations were dire. He moved his family to Rumford going into the lumber business while taking out a loan on his mortgage for the farm. Again, he failed and finally the property on Ricker’s Hill was foreclosed and for 20 years remained in financial limbo. By the 1850’s through 1860’s, tourism caught on in New England. Summer visitors traveled to Old Orchard Beach, Mount Desert Island, and other recreational spots in New England. In 1869 Hiram changed his marketing strategy and rebuilt the resort. He oversaw the marketing aspect of the business, setting up what resulted in many changes with the increase of the popularity of the resort and the water sales grew to 5000 barrels by 1870.

By 1876 the Ricker family opened the Poland Spring House which became a popular destination for the social and political elite. This hotel included 350 guest rooms, a barber shop, studios for dance and photography, pool room, music hall, bowling alley and other modern attributes to become the crown jewel of the resort. With the Civil War over, people were ready to get back to enjoying life again. The same trains that were to blame for the downfall of the resort bought the tourists to Poland to help establish the resort again.

In 1894 the Maine State Building originally built for the Maine entry in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was bought. The Ricker family had it disassembled and transported to Poland, reassembled, and used as a library and art gallery for its resort guests. This building was one of only a few buildings that survived from the Chicago World’s Fair. A year later a nine-hole golf course opened.

The water sales were not ignored. In 1907 a new bottling plant and spring house opened. With this update, the family was able to produce over 450 cases of water per shift. Business ran somewhat smoothly until the results of the Depression caught up with them. It was in the 1930’s the family lost their business. Over the years, since then the property changed hands several times.

Demolition or Development? 

During the early 1970’s the Inn at Poland Spring, the Lodge and the Maine Inn were the only facilities running for guest use. The golf course was in bad shape with only a few members. The property went up for sale again. In 1972, the property was scheduled to be demolished for a new development to be built on that site. However, Mel Robbins saw something in the property. He leased the Maine Inn, but he ran it without a strategy change, losing all his money. He reexamined his business strategy and by 1973 came out in the black. Two years later, in 1975, he was sitting on a booming business, in love and got married. He was in process of obtaining finances from the bank to fix the Poland Spring House when it burned down. The Poland Spring Preservation Society was founded in 1976. The next year, Saul Feldman who owned the resort and Mel Robbins, who held an option on the buildings gave the Preservation Society title to the Maine State Building and All Souls Chapel. Two years later, Perrier bought the Poland Spring Water Company, upgraded it, and went from 1 part-time employee to 900 in Maine. Perrier was bought by Nestle Water who by 2001 spent 3 million dollars to renovate the abandoned Poland Spring Historic bottling plant turning it into a museum. In 2006, Poland Spring Water was the largest selling brand in the United States. Today, the water comes from various locations around the state since the original spring dried up approximately 50 years ago.


The development of the Ricker’s enterprise fit into the era called the Gilded Age which started in approximately 1860 and ended about 1900. This era was a time of rapid economic growth and development after America settled down from the trials before and after the Civil War. The railroad industry allowed travel, wages increased, the industrial revolution was in full force, populations increased allowing cities to develop. The Ricker family fit right into its mold. The resort and water production needed workers. Many of which stayed on and raised their families there. Not only was this an increase in population for the area but of higher prosperity as well.

Remember the lumber industry in Rumford that Hiram Ricker could not build a business with? Papermaking became a new industry in the area. Along the Little Androscoggin River at Mechanic’s Falls several mills for papermaking were set up. In 1851, a mill was built producing a ton of paper per day and by 1890 5 mills produced 15 tons of paper daily. Shoe factories were set up and excessing Civil War rates, turned out over 13 million pairs of shoes in 1890. This was also the time when a major influx of immigrants came to the United States. The patrons of the summer resorts primarily came from the cities, to escape the heat and immigrants. The tide of Progress swept along Poland’s progressive sons and daughters which led to the town’s institution – the Poland Spring resort. The creators of the Poland’s greatest industry and its most famous progeny was the Ricker family.[v]

None of this would have even been thought of if it was not for Jabez Ricker answering his door and starting the Inn at Ricker Hill along with Hiram Ricker’s 10 days he spent in the field with his workers drinking water from the Spring.

The next time you see a bottle of Poland Spring water, think of all the history that went into it and Maturin Ricker, the immigrant who was killed in an Indian raid and how his descendants contributed to the growth and prosperity of this area.

As a note: Joseph, Maturin's is my 6th Great Grandfather through his daughter Mehitable who married Samuel Brackett. Jabez is my 5th Great Grand Uncle. 

[i] Swan, Paul. Swan-Harwell Family History. Introduction. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – Channel Island.

[ii] Scales, John. Colonial Era History of Dover, New Hampshire (Heritage Books, Inc. Reprint 2008) p. 233/4.

[iii] Libby, Charles Thornton, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire. (The Southward Press, 1928 Portland, ME) p.586

[iv] History of Poland Spring – Poland Spring Resort. Poland Spring History – Poland Spring Preservation Society (

[v] Richards, David L. Poland Spring, A Tale of the Gilded Age, 1860-1900 (University of New Hampshire Press. paperback 2006 Lebanon, NH)


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Summertime is Family time

When I was in elementary school, I hated summer vacation. When the new school year started, I didn’t have anything to write about for my “What did you do on your summer vacation?” essay. When I was growing up, time off from work was only taken when hunting season started. So, while others told about their trips to the beach or to exotic sounding places, I had nothing to say. This year I finally have something different to write about!

Planning the trip

While my husband and I were planning our trip, two seeming unrelated things happened. The first one was I needed a question answered that would involve contacting the Old Berwick Historical Society (OBHS) in Maine. Previously, I had contacted the Old York Historical Society and had a good bit of luck breaking through a somewhat tough wall. So now I had another question and was hoping for the same luck in the Berwick area.

Sometime in the spring, I emailed the OBHS with my question. As it turns out, the woman I talked to was very knowledgeable of the locations for the early settlers. She and I exchanged emails back and forth for several weeks. I told her when we were going to be in the area and she mentioned a tour of houses for my ancestors. She thought I was just another out-of-stater who wanted to see a house or two of a random ancestor whose descendants had migrated out of the area. Wrong! Little did she know that I am the only one in 10 generations that was dumb enough to move out of the area! Some of my ancestors started coming over to fish at the Isles of Shoals and propagated inland from the coast and didn’t stop coming into New England until the mid-1700s. The majority of my Maine ancestors who created the foundation of my family had come over with Captain John Mason’s company for the Laconia patent and settled the lands that were known as the Upper, Middle and Lower Parishes of Kittery, now Eliot, North, South and just plain Berwick, all 3 collectively known as “The Berwicks”, Lebanon and of course, Kittery itself. The list I sent her for just the Middle Parish took up several inches on the screen but was only a small portion of the names in my tree from the entire Kittery area.

The second seemingly unrelated thing that was happening around this time was on some of the Facebook pages I belong to. The talk was all about the Scottish Prisoner of War excavation and the Durham Cathedral as well as the Battles of Dunbar and Worcester. I had watched the video from the University of Durham with Dr. Pam Graves and Dr. Emerson Baker; bought Dr. Millard’s et al, Lost Lives, New Voices. I have several SPOWs that fought and were captured in both battles and wanted to learn more about them. In hindsight, what I found out was rather sad. The March, the number of dead… The phrase – by the Grace of God… kept running through my head as I read and learned more.

In an effort to negotiate with the planning for our vacation, we found that the site of the Saugus Iron Works was less than an hour’s drive (in ‘light’ Massachusetts traffic?!) from my husband’s daughter and her family’s home. So we planned a day to visit. I didn’t have any idea of what it entailed but was just excited to have the opportunity to visit.

Saugus Iron Works

This site is maintained by the National Park Service. The site consists of an air-conditioned museum and an outside guided tour. Our guide who was a very knowledgeable park ranger, gave us some history of why the location was chosen, took us to where they created the iron, and showed us how the waterwheels interacted within the whole process. Unfortunately the day we visited was one of the hottest days of our vacation! With the temperature adding to an already vivid perspective of what the conditions were like then, it brought home the fact that it really was blood, sweat and raw muscle that built our country. 

So called "Pizza" Oven

When this facility went bankrupt, the SPOWs workers were released from their contacts with the owners of the Iron Works and went on to other work, many to Oyster River in New Hampshire and to Berwick in Maine. Not all who worked there were prisoners of war. The latter group went to other locations, many to start up their own iron works companies. Our guide mentioned several other locations, including one in New Jersey that can be traced back to the Saugus Iron Works. Historically, this facility was proven to be the start of the iron industry in America.  

At the end of the visit, Ranger Kevin, in the gift shop and I had an interesting conversation about the SPOWs. He shared documentation with me on the people who were at the Iron Works as well as the sawmill at Berwick. It was interesting to hear that Richard Leader, the manager at the Iron Works became the manager of the sawmills in the Berwick area.

House tour

Next, we were off to Maine to visit with my family and the tour of my ancestors’ property. Norma, our volunteer guide from the OBHS, took us in her car to see settlements of some of the names that I had previously given her. We saw where Miles Thompson lived, with Nicholas Hodsdon’s property next door. We drove to several places that were historically significant but were now residential neighborhoods. The area that was excavated by Dr. Tad Baker a few years ago which belonged to Humphrey Chadbourn, Jr. was not accessible to vehicles. Humphrey Chadbourn,Sr. and Jr. were primary builders for the area sawmills as well as building the “Great House” at Strawberry Bank. Chadbourn,Sr. went back to England after his contacted work was completed. His son stayed and as they say, the rest is history. 

We saw many properties but the areas I was most impressed with were the Thomas Spencer Garrison and the house that James Emery was deeded from his father, Anthony Emery who lived in before him. 

Emery House in (now) Eliot, Maine

We met the current owner of the Emery house, he is the first non-descendant in 340 years to live in that house. AND he has copies of all the deeds going back to the beginning!!


Thomas Spencer Garrison So. Berwick, Me

The Thomas Spencer Garrison is a very impressive house. Thomas Spencer was a wealthy man. He owned over 5000 acres and as was the custom at that time, gave property to his children as they grew and married. 

 In his will, he provided a portion of his property
for a family cemetery called “Old Fields”.
This is just down the road from his house with many
of the headstones still standing. Truly a quintessential Colonial New England sight. 

Hamilton House

The Spencer house is directly across the street from the Hamilton House which is just as picturesque. Jonathan Hamilton built his house on the banks of the Salmon Falls River c 1787-1789. It is owned by Historic New England and is a National Historic Landmark. It is opened for tours June through October.

Norma, our OBHS guide, took us down to the Witchtrot Road area and showed us where the sawmills were located and where they loaded the logs for shipment to other towns. As she talked, you could just picture how the land was laid out in the mid 1600’s. Although my original question never got answered, it was really a great tour to see
and imagine how my ancestors' property looked in the 17th century.

Among many others, the names mentioned here are all my 9th great grandfathers.
Anthony Emery
Thomas Spencer
Humphrey Chadbourn, Jr
Richard Leader

My SPOW ancestors

George Gray
Alexander Cooper
William Gowen
Peter Grant
John Key
James Warren

It was a truly exciting vacation with very emotional connective overtones. One that won't soon be forgotten.

So, how was yours?

Pictures by Photos by Nancy

Friday, January 12, 2018

You can go home again, if only in your dreams

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Week 2 – Photo

The Photo

This photo, taken about 1910, tells me a lot about my family.  In the back row, with the farmer overalls is my second great
grandfather Levi Whitman, in front of him is Hester, his daughter.  The man in the black suit is Monroe David Whitman, Levi’s brother.  The lady behind him is my 2 great grandmother, Fanny Ella Martin Whitman.  The older lady in the end of that row is Anna Bryant Whitman, Monroe’s wife.  Monroe and his wife Anna lived in Owatonna Steele Minnesota.  The little impish girl on the end is Elfreda Josephine Whitman Ladd.  The older girl with the long braids is my grandmother, Ruth Elizabeth Whitman Emery.  The picture was taken at the family farm in Newbury, Vermont.  It appears to me that a reunion of sorts was coming to an end and this picture was taken for remembrance of the occasion.

The People

When I first saw this picture I was taken back at the smiles and the happy nature of the girls.  Hester, Ruth and Josephine were sisters.  I didn’t remember this happiness from them as I was growing up.  Those smiles seemed to have faded more and more as the years took their toll.  They and their brother Horace were the children of Levi and his second wife, Fanny Ella.  Levi’s previously wife was Fanny’s sister, Ann.  Ann and Levi had 4 children: Dora, David, Everett Eugene “Gene” and Fanny Rebecca.  When Ann had died of untreated diabetes, Levi had to have someone to care for his children and free him up to work the farm.  Who better to marry then someone he and his children already knew?  Monroe was a Civil War veteran serving at the Battle of Gettysburg.  He and his brother Shepard, who served at Antietam, moved west into the Minnesota, Nebraska area and raised their families. 

The Farm

For years, the farm was the center of the family’s gatherings no matter where they were going or coming from, they would stop at the farm.  Many times you could visit and cousins from ‘away’ would be there, perhaps some you never meet or ever will again had stopped off to see the grand or great grandparents.  After I was born, I was included in the annual pilgrimages as well.  Each generation, it seemed, had its own little ‘club’.  My grandmother and her brothers and sisters, naturally; my mother and her first cousins were all the same age. Then there was the children of the first cousins who were also very close in age as well.  The generational division was obvious as they naturally gravitated together.

Levi’s father David had moved from Lyme, Grafton, New Hampshire, to approximately 20 miles west on the other side of the Connecticut River with 7 of his 8 children to Newbury, Orange, Vermont.  The farm was 109 acres more or less for the total sum of $750.00 with the mortgage signed by David’s X on 13 May 1852.   It was a working farm from the beginning.  They raised corn to feed the cattle as well as the people.  Everyone had chores. In the summer days when we visited, one of the chores I still remember is gathering the corn for the evening meal.  The corn was sweet, fresh off the stalk and right into the pot! They had chickens, other small livestock and of course, a barn full of milking cows.

Time Changes Things

Time passed and I started hearing stories about the changes on the farm. The 4th generation and part of the 3rd worked outside of the farm to sustain it.  Little by little, the cows were sold.  When aunts and uncles died, land was sold to pay the funeral expenses.  The barn, which was built in 1895, was taken down piece by piece, each piece was numbered to be rebuilt in another location in the area.  Some of the memories I have of time spent on the farm will live with me forever.  Little things like visiting one Easter, going out to the barn to watch the milking in my finest clothes.  The calf I tried to feed decided she liked my dress better than what I was trying to feed her!  I never had a cow munch on my dress before that!  Watching the cows come back to the barn from the day out in the field, I was amazed at the uniform parade as they went into their stalls without any problems or effort.  How can I forget the early morning run to the woodshed in the winter to take care of nature!  I wouldn’t have missed this part of my childhood for anything.  I know I won’t go back to see it as it is now, I want to dream and remember it as it was.  For it is my connection to the generations past that I feel fortunate to be a part of.

Monday, January 8, 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Week 1 – Start

I have committed to the challenge put forth by Amy Johnson Crow. Her first topic was “Start”. Let me start this challenge by telling you of my journey to becoming a genealogy researcher.

Where, oh where should I begin? In Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit is to testify at a trial. He asks the King, "Where should I begin?" The King responded, "Begin at the beginning and when you get to the end, Stop!" 

The beginning?  I knew very little of my family tree:  My grandfather had a brother who lived up the road. We saw him fairly often since my grandfather was sickly and needed help with mowing the lawn and other around the house things.  In my family, you had to pick up clues where you could.  Little by little I found out that he had several other siblings that were in various states of medical issues...Health was a big discussion point, at least other people’s. 

One thing that stood out was that my grandfather talked with his hands. It was so noticeable that one day I asked why.  The response I got was ethically based. I didn't take too much stock in it because since he lived in America, he didn't have any other ethnic background but American!  How is that for a 5 or 6 year old's mind?

For my grandmother's information, I knew she came from Vermont, we took the train every summer to visit all the cousins and aunts and uncles on the farm. 

Years passed and I became intrigued by the relationship of people's names with streets and places in my hometown.  One year, as my mother was in an assisted living facility, I couldn't think of anything to get her for Christmas, her wants and needs were so much different than when I was younger.  I found myself in the Clayton Library in Houston, Texas one Saturday.  As I wandered through the stacks I found a history of the town in Vermont where my grandmother grew up. AND it mentioned her father in as well!  That was the catalyst I needed to get me started.  I subscribed to NEHGS, ordered books for loan and got tons of information.  It seems that like other 19th century genealogists who published their research, there was a book published in 1898 for the immigrant ancestor that contained over 15,000 descendants.

WOW!  I never knew.  This ancestor was a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – The first recording of his name was in 1638.  He had 9 children; they helped to populate many other areas of the young country.  His oldest daughter was the 7th great grandmother of Abraham Lincoln and his oldest son was the 7th great grandson of my grandmother.  From there, my research went full speed ahead.  I put my research together in a book, with the lineage on both sides of my mother’s family from her parents to the immigrants coming into the New England area in the early to mid-1600s. In among this research, I found several Mayflower passengers, but didn't take any mind of them at that time.  What a gift to give my mother!  But it was very superficial as I wanted to get this book to her for that year’s Christmas.

Today, I am working on all four ancestral lines.  My research has given me some very interesting information.  As an example, I have Scot-Irish from Ulster (Presbyterians), Scottish Prisoner of War (Battle of Worcester and Dunbar); and other Scottish immigrants who weren't involved in either.  I have found a total of seven Mayflower passengers with 13 lines; immigrants involved in the founding of Hartford, Norwich and several other towns in Connecticut, at least 2 families from Rhode Island, MANY families from both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony as well as founding families on Cape Cod and the islands. Founders of Dover, NH; Kittery, and York, Maine as well as many gateway ancestors, 10 in one line!  When my grandmother’s family migrated from Connecticut to Vermont through Northern New Hampshire, it solidified my circle around New England. AND to top it off, I found that my parents are cousins several times over.

Now the question comes back to WHERE do I start with this banyan tree? With such eye-opening experiences for someone who didn't know anything about their family prior to 15 years ago, it’s hard to find a starting point.  It could be anywhere.

Oh and by the way, my grandfather's line does have the ethnic background that promoted my answer to talking with his hands.  Both his paternal and material lines as far as you can see were all of Huguenot descent. Tradition has it that his ancestors were involved in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre.
The names of streets and places in my hometown?  Many streets and places are named after the people who owned the land.  I am related to more than half of the original founders of my hometown, the names match up to my family line very nicely. 

I haven't yet found the end to my research - my goal keeps shifting, but as the King told the White Rabbit, it is time to come to the end (of this narrative).

Saturday, August 19, 2017

America's Revolutionary War Hero

John Paul Jones 

Born 1747, in a gardener’s cottage in Scotland, he took to the sea at an early age.  By the age of 21, John Paul had become a merchant shipmaster.  After he killed a mutinous crewman, he fled to America and added Jones as his last name.  He immigrated to Virginia and joined the fledging navy serving in the War for Independence on the flagship of its first fleet – the Bonhomme Richard.  On this ship, Jones took the Revolutionary War back to England with the fight against the HMS Serapis.  During this battle the Bonhomme Richard began taking on water and a fire had broken out.  When the British commander, seeing what problems Jones had, ask him to surrender.  Jones’ answer was his famous cry: “I have not yet begun to fight!”  In the end, it was the British commander who ended up surrendering!  Jones became known for having a strong will and a man who was averse to surrender when even a small hope of victory remained.

Coming home a naval hero, the Continental Congress assigned a new sloop of war for his command, the Ranger.  By July, 1777, he arrived in Portsmouth, NH
and rented a room from Widow Sarah Purcell, to be close to the building of the Ranger.  The sloop was under construction at John Langdon’s shipyard on Badger’s Island across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine.  He stayed until November, 1777 when he sailed for France on the new sloop.  Again, John Paul Jones came back to Portsmouth as a hero in 1781, and stayed at the Widow Purcell’s boarding house while his new ship, America was built at Langdon’s shipyard.  This time, he stayed about a year.

Today, this boarding house is now known as the John Paul Jones House.  It is located at 43 Middle Street, Portsmouth, NH and has been revived as a historic museum and is considered the only known surviving structure in the United States with direct ties to the Revolutionary War’s naval hero John Paul Jones.  He stayed in this house a total of approximately 18 months while both the Ranger and America were being built.
John Paul Jones house located at
43 Middle Street Portsmouth, NH
The Georgian house is a 2 ½ story wood frame house built in 1758 by a well-known African American builder, Hopestill Cheswell for Captain Gregory Purcell and his wife Sarah Wentworth.  When the Captain died in 1776, it was suspected he had a lingering illness which left his wife and the surviving seven of their original 13 children with lawsuits and liens.
Although Sarah’s family was wealthy and well known, they were “royal” sympathizers and had been driven out of town at the start of the Revolutionary War.  This left Sarah with no visible means of support.  The only asset she had was her house to take in boarders until she died in 1783.  After her death, the house was sold to Judge Woodbury Langdon, the brother of John Langdon, owner of the shipyard where Jones’ ships were built.  Within the next 30 years, the house went through several owners and by the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the Portsmouth Historical Society was formed with its original intent to save the John Paul Jones house.

Honoring John Paul Jones
at Annapolis

By the time John Paul Jones died in France in 1792, he had been largely ignored by the country he so gallantly fought for.  It wasn’t until 1906 that President Theodore Roosevelt helped bring his body back to the United States when it was found in a leaden coffin buried under the streets of Paris. By 1913, he was re-interred at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  At this time, he was given the fame he so greatly deserved and became one of the most recognized names in American history.

Around this same time, Robert W. Traip Academy, the high school in Kittery, Maine was in its first few years of existence.  To honor John Paul Jones, it was decided the school’s nickname should be the Ranger, to commemorate the ship that was built no more than 10 miles from the school. 

During the 1970’s Sears had a television advertisement for famous American homes preserved with their paint.  The company painted the John Paul Jones house bringing it to national attention. 

In 1972, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places as well as National Historic Landmark. 

John Paul Jones is considered the Father of the American Navy.  It is very fitting that his memory should be kept alive and he should be honored as the hero that he was both at Portsmouth and Annapolis.
Crypt under the Annapolis Chapel

If you happen to be in the seacoast area and stop at Portsmouth, be sure to visit this house.  Its bright yellow stands out from everything around it. But if you can’t find it ask directions – anyone in the area can tell you where it is (as it should be). 

Sources: All pictures from Google images
Wikipedia. The John Paul Jones House
US Naval Institute Blog: John Paul Jones 266th Birthday July 5, 2013 As I Please by J. Dennis Robinson. May 20, 2000. The Many Stories of Paul Jones' House. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Greatness is in the Unselfishness of the Sacrifice

The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 was the final icing on the cake.  This symbolized the end of accepting years of tyranny under the British rule.  This is a time for us to reflect on the people who made this happen.  The farmers, merchants and everyday people who had the passion and the grit to stand up for what they believed in.  All through the generations, there has been people in all of our families who, at one time or another came to be an unlikely hero or inspired others to action.  They didn’t necessarily become the overall well known leader, such as General then President, George Washington.  They were people like Sam Adams and with his band of rebels had the passion and determination to rally others to action; Dr. Joseph Warren, who gave his life for his beliefs that fateful day at Bunker Hill; Paul Revere, who rode so long and hard that night.  They, among others, go down in history as leaders of the cause.

Grit and determination abounds

Each generation in our families has seen people who could be called small town heroes.  People that didn’t say, “No, I can’t do this”.  But people who acted on their beliefs and said, “Yes! Count me in” and didn’t think twice about the glory or the accolades but stepped up when they were needed.

I "blame" all the grit and determination on the early
comers, who instilled their passion for survival into future generations.  They came with nothing, having but the shirts on their back and what they were allowed to take with them into an already overcrowded 17th century ship sailing into the unknown.  The determination for survival was great. 
They had to protect themselves from the elements, learn how to grow food and adjust themselves to everyday life in a totally unknown environment.  But survive they did!  


There are two people in my family I would consider inspirations.  They gave of themselves without fear or expectation.  As it turns out both are descendants of the same immigrant, John Whitman a pious, everyday man who passed on his passions and his righteous beliefs to his children.

Westward bound

Statuary Hall
Washington DC
Marcus Whitman (1802-1847) is a collateral cousin, a brother to my 4th great grandfather.  He is seldom talked about today because of conflicts in political correctness but his actions are worthy of mention and at the very least inspiring.   Marcus’ grandfather, Samuel Whitman was a fire and brimstone preacher of the Second Great Awakening era.  He took Marcus under his wing when his father died.  Marcus’ desire was to be a minister.  As he got older, he studied medicine.  With both needed skills and education he joined the American Mission Society.  He and his wife, Narcissa joined another couple to travel west over the Rocky Mountains. They were to work with the Indians to bring religion and medical assistance.  This little party of four ended their journey in what is now Washington state, setting up a mission in the Walla Walla Valley.  By the 1840s, as the British were trying to take control of the Oregon area, Whitman went back to Washington, DC to meet with President McKinley.  This meeting resulted in Marcus Whitman leading the first wagon train over the Rockies in what history calls the “Oregon Trail” in 1843.  His unselfish actions saved many people’s lives and helped to develop the country.  He gave his life for his beliefs.  Today, the state of Washington honors him in the Hall of Statues in Washington, DC, dressed as the mountain man he was with his medical bag and Bible under his arm.

Onward to War

Sylvia Whitman (1923-1984) is my mother’s first cousin.  She, along with another woman, got on a steamer in 1939 to travel as missionaries to Japan and China. The war had already started in Europe and within a few years the Pacific would be
 engulfed as well.  Sylvia had a drive and a passion to help the orphaned children.  She served this area for over 30 years.  During WWII she took her children to the mountains for protection.  How traumatic it must have been to hide with her children, knowing that the bombs raining down were from her own country!  Years later, as Sylvia lay dying from a disease she contracted, she cried out to save the children.

Being a genealogist one learns much about the history of the times that the ancestors lived.  America has had war in its history since the beginning.  It’s not the war that should be celebrated nor the victory.  The celebration should be for the people who pushed forward to make their small sacrifices an inspiration towards the greatness of the whole. 

Whatever time period your ancestors came into the country, embrace their sacrifices.  For in the end, that’s what really has made America great!

pictures: Google images