Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wights of Gilead, Maine

The most rewarding part of having this blog has been hearing from people whose lives have been touched by our common history. This includes the gift of finding unknown relatives, who have advanced my knowledge and appreciation of my family history both past and present, and for this I am most grateful.

I recently received an audio CD from the son, Clarence, of Dorothy Norton Chandler. Dorothy was the daughter of Clara Josephine Watson Chandler, who appears in my earlier post
The Comings and Goings of Life in Randolph, NH in 1916 – Part 1. In 2000, when Dorothy was 91 years old, she recorded her family history. It was this recording that pointed me to the family background of my great, great, grandmother, Cordelia (née Wight) Burbank (later Watson). What follows is an updated profile for Cordelia Eliza Wight and her family. The link above navigates to a photo of Cordelia standing beside her spinning wheel in the Ravine House.

Cordelia was born on Sep 12, 1826 in Gilead, ME and died on Jun 12, 1912 in Randolph, NH. Her father, Capt. William Wight, was born on May 26, 1799 in Gilead, ME. His occupation was shown to be farmer in the Gilead, ME Censuses for 1850 and 1870. Cordelia’s mother Phebe (née Mason) Wight, was born on Feb 7, 1802 in Gilead, ME. William and Phebe were married on March 13, 1824 in Gilead. They had five children all born in Gilead:

Wight, William Quincy b. Apr 3, 1825 d. Nov 20, 1864

Wight, Cordelia Eliza b. Sep 12, 1826 d. Jun 12, 1912

Wight, Maria Matilda b. Mar 20, 1828 d. Aug 11, 1865

Wight, Lorenzo b. Jan 18, 1830 d. Aug 19, 1862

Wight, Phebe b. Feb 18, 1834 - no further data

When Cordelia was only 10 years old, her mother Phebe died (1836). In 1838, William remarried Hannah (née Stearns) Wight. William and Hannah had two children both born in Gilead:

Wight, Henry b. Apr 30, 1840 d. May 15, 1905

Wight, Hannah Priscilla b. May 5, 1843 d. c. Jun 10, 1872

Henry was a farmer who made Gilead his home for 65 years. The 1880 Census shows that he was living with his wife Mary Willis Stevens and their four children: Celia, Helen, James and Harry.

Hannah married Albert B. Richardson of Bethel, ME where they lived with their three children: Alice, William and Burritt.

Cordelia’s two brothers, William and Lorenzo, both fought and died in the Civil War. Lorenzo enlisted at age 31 (residing in Londonderry, NH at the time) on Aug 20, 1861with the rank of private in Company K, New Hampshire’s 4th Infantry Regiment. He died of disease on Aug 19, 1862 in Saint Augustine, Florida.

The 4th Regiment was a New Hampshire volunteer infantry which was in service for three years, during which period, nine officers were mortally wounded or died from disease and 275 enlisted men were mortally wounded or died from disease.

For an interesting account, with photos, of the History of St. Augustine in the Civil War in which Lorenzo’s name appears with nine other members of New Hampshire’s 4th Regiment who died in St. Augustine, FL, click

You can also click here for the Nutfield Genealogy blog, which shows a plaque affixed to Londonderry NH’s Civil War Monument, where you will see Lorenzo’s name.

William Q. enlisted one month later, on Sep 21, 1861, at age 36, with the rank of Corporal, in Company G, Massachusetts 27th Infantry Regiment. He was living in Chicopee, MA at the time with his wife Mary Prescott and their four children. He was promoted to full Sergeant on Feb 4, 1863. On May 16, 1864, he was taken prisoner at the battle at Drewry’s Bluff, VA and spent time at the Andersonville Prison Camp before being moved to Camp Lawton in Millen, Georgia, where he died from disease on Nov 20, 1864.

William served for three years in the 27th Regiment, during which period twelve officers were mortally wounded or died from disease and 254 enlisted men were mortally wounded or died from disease.

here for information on the battle of Drewry’s Bluff and here for a video of Drewry’s Bluff today at the Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia.

Cordelia’s sister Maria married Orville Peabody of Gilead, ME in Gilead on Mar 30, 1848. Shortly after their marriage, the newlyweds moved to Londonderry, NH, where Orville went to work as a shoemaker. In the 1850 Londonderry Census, Cordelia is listed as residing with them in their household. Then, as shown in the 1860 Londonderry Census, Maria and Orville had four children: Ambrose, Ida, William and James.

On Dec 2, 1852, Cordelia and Lemuel B. Burbank were married in Gilead, ME. Lemuel B. Burbank, or Bliss as he was called, was born on Apr 11, 1824 in Shelburne, NH. In the June 1860 Census, Bliss was listed as a farmer living in Shelburne, NH with Cordelia and their two children, Anna and Charles:

Burbank, Anna A b. Sep 7, 1853 d. Oct 25, 1928

Burbank, Charles B b. 1859 d. May 5, 1896

Anna married my great grandfather Laban Watson, proprietor of the Ravine House located in Randolph, NH. For more information and photos
of Anna click

Anna Burbank Watson
(Durand Road Cemetery, Randolph, NH)

In the Gilead Maine Cemetery, I found the headstone of Cordelia’s husband Bliss, who died on Oct. 17, 1860 at age 36, along with another, that of their infant son, who was born in 1856 and died shortly afterwards:

Lemuel B. Burbank

Burbank, E. b. Nov 1856 d. Dec 2, 1856

Their son Charles was living in Randolph, NH in 1880 and, according to the 1880 Census, was listed as a teamster. He died from pneumonia at the age of 36 and is buried in Whitefield, NH.

Around 1862, Cordelia married Abel Watson from Randolph, NH, who was born in Waterford, ME. Click here for a photo and background details about Abel. They had 2 children born in Randolph, NH:

William McLellan Watson b. Apr 5, 1864 d. Jan 5, 1945

Hannah E. aka Lizzie H. and Elizabeth Watson b. Jan 1, 1868 d. Sep 11, 1918

William married Lizzie S. Wheeler of Shelburne, NH on April 5, 1895 in Berlin, NH. According to the 1900 Census, William was living as a farmer in Shelburne with his wife Lizzie and their one-year-old son Earle Watson Sr. Then, as shown in the 1910 Census, William and his family were living in Gorham, NH, where he was listed as owning his house free of a mortgage. Also in that 1910 Census, his occupation was listed as scaler for a lumber mill, the Berlin Mills Co., where he continued to be employed through 1930.

William Watson, Shelburne, NH

William and Earle, Sr. Watson - Gorham, NH, c. 1920

William and Lizzie Watson
(The Wheeler Cemetery, Shelburne, NH)

Notes of interest: A log scaler measures the cut trees to determine the scale (volume) and quality (grade) of the wood to be used for manufacturing. The Berlin Mills Co., changed its name to the Brown Co. in 1917. The death date on the stone for William is incorrect and the actual date of his death is Jan 5, 1945.

Hannah spent most of her life in Randolph with the exception of a short period of time when she resided in Hanover, ME, sometime between 1900 and 1916. She married Sidney Brown of Ellsworth, ME on June 20, 1885 in Randolph, NH. From that point on, she used the name Lizzie H., except when her name appeared in the 1900 Randolph Census as Elizabeth. In the 1900 Census, Sidney was listed as a farmer living in Randolph, with Lizzie and their five children: four sons, Eugene, Hollis, Jarold, Sherman and one daughter, Ethel - all born in Randolph, NH. Lizzie and Sidney were both buried in the Randolph, NH Cemetery.

Abel and Cordelia both died in Randolph, NH and were buried in the Randolph Cemetery in the Watson family plot.

The Cemetery photos that appear in this post were taken from the following locations:

The Wheeler Cemetery, Shelburne, NH

Durand Road Cemetery, Randolph, NH

T.G. Lary Cemetery, Gilead, ME

Note: In addition to the audio recording mentioned in the first paragraph above, the sources used for this profile include census data, death records, gravestones, the Civil War records and Profiles at and Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War.

The two photos of William M. Watson were provided courtesy of Earle Watson III.

The audio CD on the Chandler & Watson families was provided courtesy of Clarence (Pat) Norton.

And a special thanks go to two people in Londonderry, NH who helped me track down and confirm that I had the right Lorenzo Wight: Heather Rojo, who maintains the Nutfield Genealogy blog and Jennifer DelVillar at the Leac
h Library in Londonderry, NH, who provided me with the information that I needed in Ayling’s Revised Register of the Soldiers and Sailors of NH in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866.

Note: My next post will be a story provided by the grandson of Louis and Ellen Davenport, whose grandparents were managers at the Ravine House during the years 1912 to 1915. This next post will include a rare glimpse of some interior and exterior photos of the Ravine House during that period.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stephen P. Watson & Family - Updated Profile

This post takes a closer look at the lives of Stephen Watson and his wife Hannah (neé Whitcomb) with updated information gathered from my 2011 trip to Randolph, NH, Norway, ME and Waterford, ME. This new information includes resources obtained at the Waterford Town Hall, the Norway Historical Society, the Boxborough Historical Society and from visits to the cemeterys in Randolph, NH, Portland, ME and Boxborough, MA.

Until now, I have been content with finding out who my ancestors were. To this end, I created a pedigree tree going back to the 1600’s on the paternal side of the Watson line and have posted on this blog some stories of what it was like for my grandparents and great grandparents, who lived in Coos County, NH at the turn of the 20th Century. I learned from this process that the majority of my Watson ancestors, third generation and later, were mostly farmers (no surprise here since, in the 1790s, 90% of the population were farmers) with a large percentage of them starting out in Massachusetts and ending up settling in Maine and, in smaller numbers, New Hampshire. The next natural progression in this learning process for me was finding out more than just who they were and where they lived. I wanted to learn some of the factors that motivated them to settle primarily in Maine and New Hampshire. So, at the conclusion of this post, I will offer some possible reasons for this migration.

I have chosen to focus here on Stephen Watson, as he was the one to relocate his family from Waterford, ME to Randolph, NH in the mid-1820s.This led to his son, my great, great grandfather Abel, and my great grandfather Laban Watson opening The Ravine House in 1877. (see my July 26, 2010 post Talk in Randolph, NH - Excerpts for more background on Stephen’s family)

Stephen Phinney Watson was born on Dec. 19, 1776 in Gorham, ME to Coleman Watson and Patience Thomes (neé Whitney), who resided in Gorham at that time. Stephen’s parents may have moved to Waterford, ME as early as 1779 where birth records exist for the last five of their eight children. I have a copy of Stephen’s birth certificate from Gorham, ME and a listing of his birth date along with the birth dates of all of Stephen and Hannah’s children from the Vital Records book located at the Waterford Town Hall.

Also available in that same book was Stephen and Hannah’s intention to marry, published on September 28, 1802 and witnessed by Eber Rice, the Town Clerk of Waterford, ME.

Also there was the following marriage record which I copy here verbatim:

“This certifies that Mr. Stephen P. Watson and Mrs. Hannah Nurse both of Waterford, ME were married October 12th 1802 by me the subscriber Lincoln Ripley - True copy attest Eber Rice Town Clerk. Transcribed from an old Manuscript - April 18th 1826 by Charles Whitman Town Clerk.”

I was interested to learn (being from Concord, MA) that the Reverend Lincoln Ripley, also from Concord, officiated at their wedding. Mr. Ripley graduated from Dartmouth College in 1796. He married Phebe Emerson, daughter of Rev. William and Phebe (Bliss) Emerson of Concord, MA and settled in Waterford in 1799. He was the first pastor in town.

Stephen and Hannah had five children all born in Waterford, ME:

1. Lois Fairbanks, b.9/23/1803 and d.1845 m. Justus Low.

Both are buried in the Durand Rd Cemetery Randolph, NH.

2. Mary Whitcomb, b.8/08/1809 d. unknown

3. John Whitcomb, b.2/09/1812 and d.7/07/1882. m.Eliza Peabody.

Both are buried in the Durand Rd Cemetery, Randolph, NH.

4. William Whitcomb, b.5/22/1815 and d. 12/31/1884. m.Elmira B. Lary.

Both are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, ME.

5. Abel Nurse Watson b. 5/24/1818 and d. 2/18/1895. m. 1st Susan Holmes, 2nd Cordelia Wight.

All three are buried in the Durand Rd Cemetery Randolph, NH.

Stephen’s wife, Hannah Whitcomb, was born in Boxborough, MA on March 13, 1775 to Abel and Jemima (neé Keep) Whitcomb. See photo below. Her father Abel Whitcomb descends from the Josiah line, which dates back to 1638 in Dorchester, MA. Hannah’s first husband was John Nurse from Boxborough, MA. They were married in Boxborough on May 10, 1797 and had two children, Abel Whitcomb, born in Boxborough, MA on August 4, 1798, and a daughter Asenath, born on January 30th 1801 in Waterford, ME.

Jemima Whitcomb, North Road Cemetery, Boxborough, MA

John, Hannah and Abel made the 150 mile journey to Waterford, most likely during 1799-1800. If they used Oxen which travel at one or two mph, the trip would have taken them about 3 weeks of 10 to 12 hour days. Alternatively, they could have traveled by buggy with John’s father, Deacon John Nurse, who settled earlier in Waterford about 1790. Deacon Nurse came from Bolton, MA and is listed as living in Waterford Town in 1790, according to Maine’s first census. John Nurse was the first deacon of the Congregational Church in Waterford, ME.

John and Hannah lived on the East side of Rice Hill in Waterford where they planned to farm the land, but early in 1801, tragedy struck when their two and a half year old son, Abel, died on March 12th. Then, later that same year, her husband John died of consumption on September 4th.

Note: Asenath, their daughter, married Thaddeus Brown, Esq. from Waterford, in Waterford, ME on April 24, 1823.

Stephen and Hannah lived in the East part of town (Rice Rd, shown above, is in the East part of town), but I was unable to make it to the County Courthouse to obtain any land records to be more specific (those details will require another trip to the area). They lived in Waterford and apparently in the neighboring town of Norway for a time where, in 1813, Stephen’s name appears in a list of new immigrants to the town. He enlisted as a private in Capt. Amos Town’s Company in September of 1814 (War of 1812), when two companies were called from Norway (along with other Oxford County towns) to fend off a possible British attack on Portland Harbor. Then, in 1820, Stephen appears again in Waterford, Maine in the 1820 Maine Census before leaving for Randolph, NH circa 1826. Stephen was listed in the Randolph, NH Census in 1830, but later that same year, he reportedly drowned in the Moose River and died on October 19, 1830 at the age of 53 and 10 months. Hannah, his wife, went on living in Randolph until her death on May 14, 1853. She lived to be 78 years and 2 months.

Stephen P. Watson and his wife Hannah - Durand Road Cemetery, Randolph, NH

As for the migration of settlers from Massachusetts to Maine, there were different factors at play, one significant factor being the land which was too rocky for productive farming. For example, in Boxborough, MA the rocks made the soil difficult to till and consequently the land had to be used primarily for the farming of fruit trees. Another factor at the time was the scarcity of land. Considering the practice of settlers passing on the land to their children, it was only a matter of time before the land available to their descendants started to disappear. For example, Deacon John Nurse had eleven children as was the typical family size of the period. So, with land at a premium, his children, like others at the time, looked for cheaper land up north, where land was both plentiful and cheap.

There were also historic events in the region that caused an influx of people to the newly created towns. Many of Maine’s early towns were settled because the survivors or the descendants of those in the expedition to capture Quebec in 1690 asked for pay. Eight townships in western Maine were set aside for this purpose and were known as the Canada Grants. Among these were Bethel, Jay, Livermore, and Waterford. Proprietors, who were usually not among the settlers, sold their lands for fifty cents an acre. Again, the promise of cheaper land was a big draw to settling in Maine as good farmland could cost as much as 50 dollars per acre in Massachusetts in the late 1700s.

To get a sense of how the towns were apportioned in Maine in 1894 (albeit, decades later) take a look at David Rumsey’s map of Oxford County, Maine by clicking here.

In my next post, I will correct some misinformation that I posted in an earlier post about Cordelia Wight’s family (I have since removed this misinformation from this blog) that I learned about from a distant cousin who sent me an audio recording that his mother made of Chandler and Watson history. Stay tuned for more details on that story.


Waterford Maine 1875-1976 published by Waterford Historical Society printed by New Hampshire Printers Somersworth, New Hampshire