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)



  1. Fascinating! There are many wonderful stories still untold!

  2. thank you for reading my blog. My ancestors surprise me all the time! Who knows what you can find!