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