Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Woodstock: Our Davis Family, Colonial to Civil War Era

Our Colonial Davises in Gloucester

Our Maine Davis line first showed up in the colonies in 1638 some 30 miles north of Boston at Ipswich, Massachusetts when John Davis appeared in an Ipswich court, perhaps to take his freeman’s oath. 

His actual arrival is speculative, but all agree he came from England during the period of the Great Migration of Puritans (1620-1640). Religious motivation for immigration is highly probable given that his sons and many of the subsequent generations have biblical names, every family seeming to have an Aaron, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and Mary. All Davises in Gloucester were descendants of John until 1700 when various other Davises came into the area.

Our Davis families lived in Gloucester, nearby Ipswich, and Attleborough, Massachusetts for 4 generations before making the leap to Bakerstown Plantation - now Poland, Maine - and then to Woodstock. 

The Davises and Days were among the 50 settlers living in the Gloucester area in 1650 where the Town Green is now a traffic rotary on Mass Rt 128.  Our Haskells, Browns, Brays and Tybotts arrived in the latter half of the century. They were mainly farmers, leaving it to the next generations to take advantage of fishing and commerce. As the little community grew and spread, in 1718 a Second Parish Church was established to make Sunday meeting attendance easier and it is here Davis births and marriages can be found. 

John1 Davis  (Abt 1608, England - 1680 Ipswich)  was a young man about 27-30 years old when he came to New England. The date and ship of his immigration is unknown, but likely mid-1630’s.

Ipswich was a Puritan settlement started in 1634 by John Winthrop, son of the Governor John Winthrop of the Winthrop Fleet which brought over thousands of colonists.

Some speculate our John Davis was a follower of Rev. Richard Blinman who brought members of his Welsh congregation to the small fishing village of Marshfield in 1640 and within a year moved to Ipswich, just on the border of Gloucester. Review of NEHGS papers of Rev. Blinman’s congregation, however, does not mention a Davis.

John may have married Alice (1612-1682), identified as Newman, in England before immigration as no Newman families are found in the early settlers of Gloucester. They had two sons who survived to adulthood, James and our 9th GGF Jacob; the daughters are unknown.  

John made a living as a shoemaker and town herdsman with land in both Ipswich and Gloucester. He may also have been a house builder as a record in 1640 shows he was hired as a “joiner” to build a new house for another individual.

John bought a house, barn, orchard, and land near Walker’s Creek in Gloucester in 1656. He was a selectman of Gloucester for several years, twice a constable, and lieutenant of the military company.  In later years, he returned to Ipswich where he died in 1680, age 72.

Jacob2 Davis (1640-1685) was born and raised in Gloucester, but lived off and on between Gloucester and Ipswich. He married Elizabeth Bennett (1641-1685)  of Gloucester in 1661 at age 21 and the following year received a grant of land at the head of Long Cove in Gloucester. In 1682 Jacob “and others have the liberty of the stream at the head of Little River to set up a sawmill.”

Jacob may have been a potter as well as a farmer and sawmill owner.

Elizabeth’s parents were both English immigrants who arrived by the 1630’s. She and Jacob had 8 children over a span of 22 years, all born in Gloucester - Jacob (our 8th GGF), Elizabeth, Susanna, Moses, Mary, and Aaron; two sons named John died in infancy.

Jacob was drafted in the town’s quota for King Phillip’s War in 1675, but most draftees hired substitutes to do the actual soldiering.

Jacob and Elizabeth both died young in 1685, age 45 and 44 respectively, seven months apart, most likely from infectious causes. They left six children age 18 and under; only our GGF Jacob Jr. was over 18 and may have had to assume responsibility for some of the children. An article in NEGHR shows at least one of the children, Joseph, 11 years old when their parents died, was placed under the guardianship of brother Moses for the first two years until guardianship was transferred to an uncle. Jacob Sr. left an estate that included a house, upland and meadow, cart yoke, half of a sloop and four canoes, cattle, sheep and swine, and gun, cutlass and belt, so he and Elizabeth had worked hard and done well before their early death.

Jacob3 Davis (1663-1717) was 22 years old when his parents died. Two years later he married Mary Haskell from a nearby farm. He carried on his father’s mill in Gloucester, and also lived back and forth between Gloucester and Ipswich.

Mary’s grandfather - our 9th GGF- William Haskell, immigrated about age 20 from Charlton Musgrove, Somerset, England to Beverly, MA, with his mother, stepfather, and two brothers in 1635.  He was a mariner and fisherman who moved his family to Gloucester in 1645 and purchased land on the west side of Walker’s Creek. Son, William Haskell, Jr., inherited the family farm, but was also a fisherman and owned saw and grist mills in what is now Rockport, MA. He married Mary Walker from a neighboring farm and our Mary Haskell was the first of their 9 children. Both William Sr. and William Jr. left considerable estate. The family home built in the mid 1600’s is on the National Register of Historic Homes and operates as a bed and breakfast.

William Haskell House, Gloucester
built c. 1700
Jacob3 and Mary married in 1687 in Gloucester and had 8 children. Their first, a son Jacob, died soon after birth. The second son, Captain Moses Davis, was a mariner who moved to Rowley, Massachusetts. Third son, William, had the tragic loss of three children within a week’s time in the winter of 1729, very likely from an influenza epidemic. Fifth son, Joseph, apprenticed to a cabinet maker and became a well known furniture maker in Boston.

Jacob acquired land at the head of Little River and built a house and mill by 1712. The house has been variously occupied as a hostel, tavern, home of a descendant of Gloucester slaves, now restored and serves as a homeless shelter. This house is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jacob Davis House, Gloucester, 1712
Jacob died age 53 in the winter of 1717, a year of severe influenza epidemic in New England. Mary experienced a lifetime of losses, including a brother who died when she was 13, a son when she was 20, two sisters within 5 days when she was 22, another son when she was 35, death of her father when she was 40, her mother at 47, husband at 48, and a brother at 49. Mary remarried to Ezekiel Woodward with whom Jacob had done business in Gloucester but she, too, died two years later at age 53, leaving 7 minor children, including Aaron4.

Aaron4 Davis (1704 - abt 1743), 4th son of Jacob3 and our 7th GGF, was born while Jacob and Mary were living in Ipswich. Aaron was 12 years old when his father died.

In 1725, 21 year-old Aaron married 19 year old Phebe Day (1706-1791), descended from the Day settlers of Gloucester. By 1728, the family was living in Attleboro, documented by a sale of land Aaron and his brothers inherited from their father, and by the birth location of their 7 children. Attleboro is a fair distance from Gloucester, about 80 miles south, due west from Plymouth, just north of Fall River. 

Like his father, Aaron4 died young at age 39 in Attleboro. Phebe lived to be 71 years, acquiring another three husbands along the way - Benjamin Hoppin, Nehemiah Ward, and John Hoppin - the last when she was 70 years old. 

Phebe married second husband, mariner Benjamin Hoppin, in 1745 and had a son, also Benjamin Hoppin. The elder Benjamin was lost at sea soon after. She died in Providence, RI, in 1791 as Phebe Hoppin. 

The Davis family moves to Poland

Captain Zebulon5 Davis (1733-1820), the eldest son of Aaron4 and Phebe, was 9 years old at his father’s death. His mother remarried in Attleborough in 1745 and Zebulon’s guardianship was assigned by Essex County court in 1748 to Abner Day (cordswainer), Ezekial Woodward (shoreman), both of Gloucester, and Joseph Marshall of Ipswich. Ezekial's son, Davis Woodward, also moved to Poland Maine, and the Day family were early settlers of New Gloucester, Maine (not to be confused with Gloucester, MA) as well as a pioneering family of Woodstock.

Several of Aaron and Phebe’s children may have been taken into Gloucester families as Zebulon’s brother, Aaron, was living in Gloucester at the time of the Revolution and fought at Bunker Hill with a company of Essex men, “by the rail fence, in the thick of fight all day covered only by scattering trees, they poured the most destructive volleys on the enemy.” Zebulon’s youngest brother, Timothy, was a shipmaster who drowned in the Little River in 1769 at age 27 when his boat upset.

Apprenticed into sea faring families, Zebulon took up the mariner’s life. At 18, he married Mary Bray (1730 - ) from the Gloucester Bray family in the Second Parish and their 7 children were all born in Gloucester.

Sometime between 1768 and 1776, Captain Zebulon gave up the sea and moved his family to Bakerstown Plantation, Maine, a wilderness at the time. Two sons remained behind in Gloucester - Eliphalet who was successful in trading and commerce, and Zebulon Jr.  Young Zebulon Jr. served in the Revolution in 1776 while still in Gloucester, and soon after removed to Bakerstown Plantation in the Minot area with a fellow soldier. 

The area of Bakerstown Plantation that is now Poland began to settle in 1767, and at the 1790 census there were still only 7 permanent settlers here. One of these 7 families was Zebulon’s. 

The whole of Bakerstown Plantation had 217 households in the 1790 census. Bakerstown was incorporated in 1795 as Poland, but various towns were set off over the next 100 years, including Minot, Mechanic Falls, and part of Auburn. The entire area of Bakerstown/Poland was in Cumberland County until it became part of Androscoggin County in 1854. 

On July 21, 1776, Zebulon and 21 other male Bakerstown settlers signed an agreement setting up a town militia to serve in the American Revolution. 

History of Poland states Zebulon Sr. was held prisoner and endured suffering and hardship confined at Halifax by the British, but corroborating evidence is not available. He was a Captain in the Bakerstown Company of militia assigned to Isaac Parsons’ nearby New Gloucester regiment from at least 1781-1786. That he was in the militia or naval service and captured in these intervening years is likely, but not documented other than in the history of Poland. He died in 1820 before Revolution pensions were available to other than disabled Revolution veterans.

Three sons, Zebulon, Eliphalet, and our 6th GGF, Aaron, also served in the Revolution.  Zebulon Jr. served 9 months as a drummer in 1776, assigned to protect the Gloucester coast. He married the same year, and moved to Minot, ME. Eliphalet served 3 years from 1777-1780. Aaron was in the Bakerstown militia of which his father was Captain.

First wife Mary died sometime after the birth of her last child in 1766 and 1779. Zebulon married second time around 1779, widow Hannah Sawyer Marble, and started a second family of an additional 3 children.

The 1790 census shows Zebulon, 2 males under 16, and 2 free white females living in Bakerstown Plantation.

Zebulon and Mary’s children
  • Zebulon, Jr. (1753-1838) married Tryphosa Herrick in Gloucester as soon as he finished his Revolution service, and moved to Minot, Maine. They had 7 children, all born in Bakerstown Plantation (Minot), one of whom was named Zebulon (1785 - ). His son, Benjamin, served in the War of 1812.
  • Moses (1755-1841), moved to New Gloucester, then to Bakertown, lived on Pigeon Hill (Mechanic Falls) and married Olive Bodwell at age 24. They had two children, but she died within a couple years. At age 33, he married 15 year old Deborah Marble from nearby New Gloucester, Maine, and they had an additional 9 children.
  • Eliphalet (1756-1804) was born, raised, and died in Gloucester. He served as a drummer in the Revolution, but subsequently enlisted in the Continental Army and rose to the rank of General according to History of Gloucester. Eliphalet settled in Harbor Parish of Gloucester where he kept a shop and engaged in foreign commerce. He married 16 year old Hannah Somes at age 23, and they had at least 8 children.
  • Aaron6 Davis (1757-1837), our 5th GGF, married Thankful Strout.
  • Molle  “Mary Polly” Davis (1761-1820) married Joshua Dunn of Bakerstown who served in the Revolution. Joshua enlisted at Falmouth in 1776 as a 15 year old and served in New York City at the time Washington lost to the British. Joshua and Molle were married in 1783 by Isaac Parsons in nearby New Gloucester under whom Molle’s father served in the Revolution. Joshua gave the name of “The Empire” to the area of Poland in which he lived. He was described as  “possessing a fine physique, and a noted wit and practical joker.” Molle and Joshua had 8 children born in Poland over a period of 19 years. She died at age 43, three years after the birth of her last child.
  • William (1763-1845) was born in Gloucester and still a child when the family moved to Poland. In 1786, he married step-sister Hannah Marble, a skilled midwife, and they had 5 children, one of whom was named Zebulon. William lived on Pigeon Hill, but moved in with his father and stepmother/mother-in-law in 1791 when he was 28 years old. He built another house on the property the following year to accommodate the large family. William had 4 young children; step-mother Hannah Sawyer Marble and father Zebulon had 3 young children.  Total = 11 people. Needed a bigger house!
Altogether, Zebulon Sr. and Mary had 48 grandchildren. Among these were five Pollys, four each Williams, Eliphalets, and Benjamins; and two each Aarons and Zebulons, almost all of whom lived in the Poland, Minot, Woodstock area. Imagine Christmas.

Zebulon died in Poland in 1820, age 87. What a life!

And on to Woodstock . . .

Aaron6 Davis (1757-1837), fourth son of Zebulon and Mary, was born and lived in Gloucester until his early teens when Zebulon moved the family to Bakerstown Plantation. Aaron married Thankful Strout (1757-1825) in 1784, both age 27. Thankful was from the prominent seafaring Strout family of Gloucester. Even starting their family at relatively late ages, Aaron and Thankful managed to have 11 children over a period of 22 years. According to Lapham’s Woodstock history, all were born in Poland, I verified the births in early vital records of Poland as Thankful’s age of 50 at the last birth is unusual.

Aaron signed the 1776 Bakerstown Agreement establishing a militia and served as a private in the regiment commanded by his father, Zebulon. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors indicates he was on the disastrous Penobscot expedition of 1779.

Aaron and Thankful's children
  • Hannah (1785-1860), married farmer William Faunce of Paris in 1804 in Hebron, ME, died age 75, in Oxford, ME; 11 children.
  • Aaron7, Jr.,  (1786-1870), our 4th GGF married Lucinda Oraing Brooks.
  • Thankful (1788-1863), married lumberman Robert Stockman; at least 2 children.
  • Sally (1791-1885), married farmer Seth Curtis, sergeant in War of 1812; they lived in Woodstock until his later years, then moved to Paris; 4 children.
  • *Polly (1792-1873), married Samuel Nute; 3rd step-great aunt to the Nute family; see below.
  • Phebe (1795-1835), died age 40, unmarried, likely lived with Aaron and Thankful as an “old maid.”
  • Benjamin (1797-1870), married Ruhamah Chase; 9 children.
  • Eliphalet (1799-), married Lydia Lurvey; children and death date unknown.
  • Eliza (1801-), married Richard Lurvey who was a representative to the state legislature in 1836.
  • Nehemiah Strout Davis (1804-1832), never married, died in Woodstock a age 28. His estate was appraised by brothers-in law, Seth Curtis and Samuel Nute, and consisted of $260, a bridle, a 3 year old colt, and wearing apparel.
  • Julia Marie (1807-1887), married Benjamin Stephens (1807-1890), son of our 4th GGP’s Captain Samuel Stephens and Emma Swan, and brother to Jane Stephens, our 3rd GGM who married Joseph Davis, son of Julia’s brother and our GGF Aaron7. 
*Polly Davis ( 1792-1873): Polly, was the 2nd wife of our 3GGF Samuel Nute (1792-1855). Samuel’s first wife died at a young age, leaving him 4 young children; a year later he married Polly who was also in her mid-30’s and she raised the children - including our Orsamus - but they had no children of their own. Samuel died in Woodstock at age 62, and in 1860 she was living with Orsamus and his first wife, Emma Stevens. Emma died in 1860, and Orsamus took a second wife, Lovena Dunn Davis, our 2nd great-grandmother and grand daughter of Aaron5 Davis, Polly’s father. That is to say, Polly was the great-aunt of Lovina. In any event, Orsamus and Lovina took Polly with them when they moved to Boston in 1862 and she died there at age 73, outliving Samuel by 18 years. Pretty confusing, eh?

Davis memorial in Curtis Hill Cemetery, Woodstock
Aaron Davis and wife Thankful Strout

Thankful died age 68 in 1825, leaving Aaron a widower for 12 years. Aaron applied for and was granted a Revolution pension in 1832, age 72, and died five years later. They are both buried in Curtis Hill Cemetery, a beautiful little cemetery on a hill overlooking Woodstock.

Aaron Davis7 (1786-1870), like the rest of his sibs, was born in Poland, and we know he was living in Woodstock by 1811 as his son, Joseph, was born here. As a private in the War of 1812, he was ordered to the defense of Portland in September 1814. History of Poland notes Aaron Jr. was in Woodstock before his father who arrived by 1815, and both Aarons were at a Woodstock town meeting in 1815.

Aaron married Lucinda Oraing Brooks, daughter of our 5th GGP’s Dr. Peter Brooks and Betsey Bryant, before 1809. They had 11 children between the years 1809 - 1830. Lucinda died in 1839 at the age of 52, and Aaron married 43 year old Eliza Dudley in 1843. 

Aaron's and Lucinda’s children:
  • Cynthia (1809-1887) married shoemaker Alexander Bryant, grandson of our 5th GGF Solomon Bryant, and they had 11 children.
  • Joseph Davis8 (1811-1886), our 3rd GGF, married Jane Stephens (1812-1893).
  • Stephen Denning Davis (1813-1864) was a boot  maker in Ashland, MA, three times married per record at his third marriage. His first wife, Abigail, was “injured at a tent meeting in the rage of Millerism in 1843. During the meeting someone threw a hemlock knot at the minister and it struck Mrs. Davis. The injury finally resulted in her death ,” per Libby notes. He moved the family to Ashland, Massachusetts where he died age 51 from a “canker rash” and scarlet fever.
  • Charles Brooks (1815 - 1884), farmer, married Harriet Nute (1818-1899), daughter of our 3rd GGP’s Samuel Nute and Betsey Fickett. They had 6 children. Charles and Harriet were living in Woodstock through the 1870 census. By 1880 they were living in Paris and are both buried in South Paris.
  • Phebe (1817 - after 1855) married Joseph Cotton and had 4 children.
  • Lorenzo (1820 - 1902), a farmer, married Eleanor Packard in Woodstock. She died from tuberculosis while they were living in Ashland, MA, in 1856. He married second Laura Upton in Ashland, MA, in 1857 and returned to live in Woodstock. He died from a stroke at age 84 in Auburn, ME. 
  • Betsey (1821 - 1898) married shoemaker Aaron Thurlow and they lived in Paris. She died in Mechanic Falls with heart disease in 1898.
  • Thankful (1823 - ) has left no footprints.
  • Aaron (1825-1870), married Lucy Fickett; died age 44 from consumption within a month of his father’s death and his land was sold at auction to pay debts. Lucy took up nursing and lived with her mother in Paris to support herself and her daughter.
  • Seth C. (1828 - 1902), carpenter and farmer, married Almira Herrick; died age 73 in Auburn, ME, from “gastric catarrh,” stomach gastritis, perhaps a bleeding ulcer.
  • Lucinda ( 1830 -) lived with her father until his death in 1870. Two years later at age 50, she married 80 year old farmer, Jeremiah Curtis, from Rumford.
According to  the 1850 census, 62 yr old Aaron, 50 yr old Eliza, 27 yr old Betsey, 25 yr old Aaron, 23 yr old Seth, and 20 yr old Lucinda Davis are living in the family home. Son, Joseph, is living on the farm next door. Eliza died before 1854 when intentions to marry third wife Nancy H. Stephens of Paris were published, likely a widow so we do not know her birth surname. In any event, the 1860 census shows Aaron is a 74 year old “gentleman” living with only 65 yr old Nancy. Aaron died in Woodstock, age 84, in March 1870 from a stroke and his son, 40 year old Aaron, died from tuberculosis the following month.

Aaron Davis Jr. and wife Lucinda
Nute Stephens Cemetery, Woodstock
In the background is the Nute obelisk and row of Nute headstones
Joseph8 Davis (1811-1886), our 3rd GGF and oldest son of Aaron and Lucinda, grew up on the Davis farm in South Woodstock and married Jane Stephens, daughter of Captain Samuel Stephens and Emma SwanJoseph was a farmer and had a saw mill with his brother, Seth, on a brook in Woodstock. Joseph and Jane had 5 children, all born in Woodstock, and the oldest married into our Nute line. 

Joseph's and Jane's children
  • Lovina9 Dunn Davis (1835-1880) married Orsamus Nute.
  • Joseph Henry (1837-1908) enlisted in the Maine 23rd Infantry Regiment in 1862 and went with his regiment to Washington during the Civil War, assigned to guarding the forts of the upper Potomac, but never under fire. He married Juliett Irish and lived out his years in Woodstock as a farmer until 71 years of age.
  • Antonett Davis (1839-1922) married Charles Chase and lived in Paris where he was a farmer.
  • Jane Lurvey Davis (1842 -) was 18 years old living at home in 1860 but left no further footprints.
  • William Stephens Davis (1847-1922), farmer, married Georgianna Irish. He died age 74 with influenza and parkinsonism.
Joseph Davis and Jane Robbins Stephens are both buried in South Woodstock Cemetery

South Woodstock Cemetery
Twenty five year-old Lovina9 married 41 year-old Orsamus Nute (1820-1907), a widower with 5 children, in 1861. In the 1860 census she was living at home with her parents, working as a teacher, and this may have been her connection to Orsamus, also a teacher in Woodstock. Lovina and Orsamus had another 6 children, including our GGF Joseph10 Nute. The first two, including Joseph, were born in Woodstock. The last four were born in Boston but two of these did not survive infancy. She died with pericarditis at age 45. Lovina and Orsamus are both buried in the Nute Stephens cemetery in Woodstock. 

Nute momument and markers
Nute-Stephens Cemetery
Woodstock, Maine
Even though Lovina died in Boston and Orsamus in Monsey, New York, they both came home to Woodstock to be buried. Orsamus made his fortune in Boston and built an obelisk memorial for the Nute family in the Nute Stephens Cemetery. Along with Orsamus are buried,

Samuel Nute (1792-1855), his father
Betsey Fickett (1794-1826), Samuel’s first wife
Polly Davis (1792-1873), Samuel’s second wife and daughter of Aaron7 Davis, Jr.
Rebecca Wentworth (1765-1828), Samuel’s mother and Orsamus’ grandmother
Emma Stephens, (1822-1860), Orsamus’ first wife
Lovina9 Dunn Davis( 1835-1880) Orsamus’ second wife
Children of Orsamus and 1st wife Emma
     Emma F, died in infancy, 1857
     Samuel, died age 20, 1864
     Ruth Anna, unmarried, died in 1880, age 28, in Boston 
Children of Orsamus and Lovina
     Ernest, died in infancy, 1868
     Frankie, died in infancy, 1870

We have two hundred fifty years of history with our American Davis family, through wars, hard times, huge families, tragic losses, all with that New England work and survival ethic to become the hardy "stock" of Woodstock. They funneled from Gloucester, up through Maine and into the wilderness, and finally returning to "civilization" in Boston.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Woodstock: The Remarkable Captain Samuel Stephens, Mayflower descendant and son of a Revolutionary

 Captain Samuel Stephens and Emma Swan, our 4th great-grandparents, were relative latecomers to Woodstock with their arrival in Woodstock around 1815.

Samuel Stephens in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Samuel was born to Edward Stephens and Mayflower descendant Phoebe Harlow in Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

Birth and death records are not available for Samuel but his gravestone indicates he died at age 90 in 1856, which puts his birth at about 1766. A 1913 SAR application by a great-grandson, Harold Ellsworth Stevens, MD, in Lewiston, ME, gives a birth date of September 16, 1768, but the source of that date is unclear unless from family records. Indeed, the Revolutionary War pension application of his brother, William, makes reference to a family Bible with birth dates.

Both parents were in their 40's when Samuel was born, the 9th of ten children. Three of the 10 died young - a brother at age 3 before Samuel was born, and two sisters at ages 21 and 27.

Samuel grew up in a revolutionary age and family. When but eight years old, his father and three brothers marched with a Plympton military company to nearby Marshfield on April 19, 1775, the day of the Lexington alarm. While surrounding areas were revolutionary bent, Marshfield was a hotbed of Loyalists. Brother William spent 7 months in the young colonial Navy on the brigantine Hazard in 1777-78.

Samuel had several losses before he turned 22 with the death of an older sister in 1786, his mother in 1787, father in 1788, and another sister in 1791.

The earliest record of Samuel occurs with his 1788 marriage to a young woman from the neighboring farm, Desire Harlow, just months after his father’s death. Their first child, Samuel Jr., was born 7 months after the marriage. They had another two children by 1798, the year Samuel purchased a lot in Paris, Maine.

Samuel is again mentioned in his father’s probate papers in 1789. Although his father owned significant land in the Plympton/Plymouth/Marshfield area, he died insolvent and his land was sold off to his sons and sons-in-law to cover his debts. A small, but nice parcel at Hobbs Hole went to 21 year-old Samuel, perhaps made possible with money from the his new wife’s family. Farming soil in Plymouth was acidic, porous, and downright poor for farming except for a few patches, one of these being Hobbs Hole, “a 15 minute walk from Burial Hill in Plymouth.” Even with a workable piece of land, Samuel’s attention turned to other opportunities in the expanding colonies.

Samuel and Desire in Paris (great name for a movie)

Still a young man at age 31, Samuel and Desire and children joined a host of others migrating from the Plymouth, Plympton, and Marshfield areas to inland Maine in the years after the Revolution. Samuel’s brother, Sylvanus, became an early resident of nearby Sumner although it’s not clear when he arrived.

We know Samuel purchased the 100 acre “Center lot” in Paris, Maine, in 1798, from Lemuel Perham and the family finally traveled the 188 miles from Plymouth to Woodstock in 1800. Tragically, Desire died in 1801, leaving Samuel with three young children. Samuel married our 4th great-grandmother, Emma Swan, the following year.

Emma’s father, William Swan, a Revolution soldier who fought at Bunker Hill, moved his family to Paris by 1790 and was an early settler of Woodstock by 1802, about the time Emma married our Samuel in Paris.

Samuel had another six children with second wife Emma. Desire must still have been on his mind as their first child was named Jesse Harlow Stephens. One of their children, Oren, died young, perhaps only two years old.

Samuel took an active role in the early Paris community. He and another Paris resident, Nicholas Smith, built a grist mill on Smith Brook. He was on the committee to build a Baptist Church in the town, treasurer for the town 1803-04, and selectman/assessor in 1806 and 1810. He cast musket balls to arm the town's War of 1812 militia.

Samuel and Emma in Woodstock

By 1815, Samuel once more moved his family, this time to Woodstock and - again - he was a prominent member in the community. He was a Selectman in 1817 and Overseer of the Poor in 1818. At a town meeting in 1817, “old Mrs. Lucy Swan was set up at auction and struck off to Samuel Stephens at $1.09/week.” The town handled their old folk in those days by auctioning off care to the lowest bidder. Old Lucy, indeed, was Emma’s mother, our 5th GGM; she died the following year. 

After moving to Woodstock, Samuel bought a grist mill afterwards known as the Captain Stephens Mill, and businesses built up around the area, including a blacksmith shop, hotel, and a circus ground. Stephens Mills was the business center of Woodstock for several years. The unreliable water source allowed the mill to operate only intermittently and it was dismantled in 1834.  

Woodstock Corner about 1830, from Woodstock Chamber of Commerce

Samuel and Emma built a beautiful home that was the last of the original Stephens Mills settlement when it burned down in 1968.

Captain Samuel Stephens house, built in 1815, photo in 1955, from Stephens Mills website
School areas were redistricted in 1820 and Samuel's farm was in the First district along with the Swan and Bryant families, also grandparent ancestors.

Samuel served two terms in the Maine legislature, elected in 1827 and 1831 to represent Woodstock which meant trips to Portland until the state capital was moved to Augusta in 1832. In 1845, he voted with the minority in favor of liquor licenses in Woodstock.  Most of the town, including another GGF Orsamus Nute, voted for prohibition.

Samuel's oldest son, also Samuel, died tragically at age 43, crushed in a mill accident in Woodstock in 1832, and wife Emma died 4 years later, leaving Samuel a widower for the next twenty years. His oldest son by Emma, Jesse Harlow Stephens, a Methodist minister, hung himself in 1843, reportedly influenced by Millerism.*

*William Miller developed a national following for preaching the Second Coming of Christ would occur sometime in 1843.

In 1850, eighty-two year old Samuel was living with Sam Jr.'s widow and 36 year-old spinster daughter, Mary. He died in 1856 at the age of 90.

Samuel was a "highly respected citizen," clearly involved in the community and did well for himself, particularly given his father's insolvency and no inheritance from the family.  In addition to his property and home, probate inventory showed he had two cows, 10 sheep, a ton of hay, and 5 bushels of potatoes and turnips each, among other sundry things. One of the appraisers of his estate was our Orsamus Nute.

Samuel's family:                                                                                                                                   

Desire Harlow, 1st wife, died in Paris, age 32
  • Samuel Stephens, Jr. (1789-1832), private, War of 1812; m. Mayflower descendant Elizabeth Doten; killed in mill accident at age 43, 2 children.
  • Captain Eleazer Stephens (1792-1852), War of 1812 Navy veteran; m. Nancy Stevens, 5 children.
  • Desire Stephens (1798-1869), m. Artemus Felt, 8 children.
Emma Swan, 2nd wife, died in Woodstock, age 66
  • Jesse Harlow Stephens (1802-1843), m. Abigail Lurvey, 5 children; Methodist minister, hanged himself at age 41. 
  • Benjamin Stephens (1807-1890), m. Julia Maria Davis; 5 children; son Orin became a doctor.
  • Orin Stephens (1809 - ), died young, possibly in 1811.
  • Jane Stephens (1812-1893), m. Joseph Davis; 5 children; daughter Lovina Dunn Davis married our Orsamus Nute.
  • Mary Stephens (1815 - died after 1870), unmarried, lived with father until he died, then on the "town farm."
In total, Captain Samuel had 30 grandchildren.

Samuel, Emma, and Samuel Jr. are buried in Curtis Hill Cemetery. Many other Stephens are buried in the Nute-Stephens cemetery, including son Benjamin and his family, and there appears to have been a close connection between the Nute and Stephens families.

The Mystery of Captain Samuel Stephens 

Paris and Woodstock town histories often refer to Samuel as Captain Stephens even when the rank of other Revolution veterans in these towns is rarely mentioned. The source of Samuel's captainship is not documented from the Revolution, nor is he listed as one of the Paris men training for the War of 1812.

The Woodstock Samuel Stephens has been generally accepted as a Revolution privateer:
  • From Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors: Samuel Stevens, Gloucester. Descriptive list of officers and crew of the ship “America” (privateer), commanded by Captain John Somes, sworn to in Suffolk Co., June 8, 1780; age 14 yrs; stature 3’10 “; residence Gloucester.
  • Maine Veterans Cemetery Records documents the same information under his name, associating the information with our Samuel’s gravestone, and citing Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors as the source information.
  • His gravestone has an American Revolution veteran marker.
  • Stephens Mills website sources the Woodstock Samuel Stephens as this young Gloucester teen.
Here are the problems with this claim:
  • There is no doubt our Samuel is from Plymouth, and not Gloucester. Paris and Woodstock town histories refer to Samuel as being from Plymouth, he married a young woman from the Plymouth Harlow family, he is listed in the Plymouth Edward Stephens probate papers, and brother Sylvanus from Plymouth lived in nearby Sumner.
  • Gloucester had an extensive Stevens family headed by William Stevens, famed as a master ship carpenter in the 1600s, and rampant with Samuel named offspring. They spell their name Stevens, whereas our Plymouth family were Stephens.
  • If his gravestone is correct, Samuel would have been 12 and not 14 years old at the time this young sailor took to sea harassing the British.
  • The Gloucester teen was 3’10” tall and would have had to grow another 12” to be out of the category of dwarfism. American Revolution men were tall, averaging three inches taller than the British soldiers. An average American adult male would have been 5’8” in those days, about an inch less than the contemporary American male. If we extrapolate to 14 year old boys of that era, an average Revolution era 14 yr old boy would be about 5’3 1/2”. A 3’10” fourteen year old sailor would have stood out, so much so that the stat got put into the listing in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors.
In order for our Woodstock Samuel to be the Gloucester teen privateer, he would have had to make his way 75 miles north from Plymouth to Gloucester by age 14, back to Plymouth before age 20 to impregnate and marry the Plymouth Desire Harlow, and grow another two feet.

More likely, the connection between the Woodstock Captain Samuel Stephens and Gloucester privateer is incorrect. Quite possibly, our Samuel attained his Captainship post-Revolution in the local militia, following the footsteps of his Revolution father and brothers, rising up the ranks as he seemed to do most of his life. Even more likely, he was in the seafaring business in Plymouth as many in the area were wont with poor farming quality in the area. He was set with the family house on the property at Hobbs Hole and until age 30 captained his own boat. This would explain why he continued to use the title Captain in later life when other Revolution veterans in the Woodstock/Paris did not. As in, aye, aye Captain.

Next up, The Stephens family before Woodstock . . .

The Old Village of Woodstock, Maine, 1808-1840-50, Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.
A History of Buckfield, Oxford County, Maine from the earliest explorations to the close of the year 1900.
History of Woodstock, Me. : with family sketches and an appendix, William Berry Lapham, 1882.
History of Paris, Maine, from its settlement to 1880, William Berry Lapham, 1884.
History of the town of Gloucester, Cape Ann : including the town of Rockport, Babson, 1860.
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War
Woodstock Cemeteries, compiled  by Joyce Howe
Stephens Mills webside,

Monday, August 14, 2017

Migration of Our Woodstock Families: Poland and Paris, and finally Woodstock

Woodstock is a beautiful, rural Maine town, dotted with lakes and stunning in the fall with hillsides a kaleidoscope of color. Bryant's Pond lies in the northwest corner and feeds the Little Androscoggin River. The people of Bryant Pond were the last to give up hand-crank telephones with a human operator in 1983. The old Grange and Masonic Lodge buildings feature three-story attached outhouses - well, technically they are "inhouses."  The 2010 Census showed 1,277 people and 371 families living in Woodstock spread over 47 square miles.

Woodstock hills in the fall
Bryant Pond

Three story "privies" of the Masonic Lodge and Grange
The Woodstock Historical Society manned by a dedicated staff has its home on Main Street close to the Pond. I had the privilege of spending a day in the fall of 2016 with a staff member, Joyce Howe, who took me around to our family sites and cemeteries - and we had the best pizza for lunch at a little store in "town."

Woodstock Historical Society
Our family line on the Nute side converged on Woodstock, Maine, in the late 1700s-early 1800s, finally emerging from that wilderness-taming experience when 2nd GGF Orsamus Nute moved his family out of Woodstock to Boston in 1864. From there, the family has dispersed around the country, from Connecticut, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to California.


They came from the Watertown, Cambridge and Plymouth areas - the Brooks, Swan, Bryant, and Stephens families - Nutes from New Hampshire; Strouts and Davises from coastal Maine and Massachusetts. Even the New Hampshire Nute lived briefly in coastal Falmouth, Maine, before migration. By and large, the families followed a route progressively north and inland, along what is now Route 26 from the coast to Poland and Paris, and from there to Woodstock on a rugged road built in 1795 to connect the two settlements. The roads were all pretty rough in those days - no whizzing along freeways in air-conditioned and heated vehicles.


The planning by proprietors for the “plantation” of this area of Maine took place in Watertown, MA, with Paris originally called Plantation Number Four, and incorporated as a town in 1795.

Paris roads were laid out in 1794, and the road to Woodstock in 1795. Even before the road to Woodstock opened, two Bryant brothers, Christopher and Solomon, were hard at work clearing land in Woodstock in preparation for their big move. Paris had 40 households in 1798, living in log and dirt cabins until sawmills were built. Solomon Bryant had 79 acres, William Swan 50 acres, and Samuel Stephens 100 acres. Samuel is listed as owning property, but didn’t move to Paris until a couple years later. 

The Bryants of Plympton migrated to Grey on coastal Maine after Solomon served in the Massachusetts militia in the Revolution, and inland to Plantation Number Four (Paris) by 1788. He was chosen surveyor of lumber, a task he continued over the next several years. In 1796, Solomon was named a hog reever for the town. Sons, Christopher and Solomon Jr., were first settlers in Woodstock and daughter Betsey eventually moved to Woodstock, but Solomon Sr. lived out his days in Paris.

Dr. Peter Brooks of Acton, Massachusetts, arrived in Paris with the families of Solomon Bryant and William Swan, Jr. and stayed about 4 years. He moved then to Poland, Maine, briefly to Woodstock in about 1798, and finished his years down the road in Mechanic Falls, Maine.

Cambridge born 5th GGF William Swan, a Revolution veteran of Bunker Hill, was appointed tithingman* at the first Paris town meeting in 1793. Two Swan daughters married the two Bryant boys, Emma married our Samuel Stephens, and most of the family relocated to Woodstock. 

Samuel Stephens of Plymouth bought a lot in Paris in 1798 and migrated there with his family by 1801.  Samuel signed a petition for division of the town in 1803 and was on a town committee in 1806. In 1812, Samuel is referred to as Captain and was paid $4.50 for casting balls.

*A parish officer elected to preserve good order in the church during divine service, to make complaint of any disorderly conduct, and to enforce the observance of the Sabbath.


Poland was incorporated in 1795, but settled as early as 1769. Early settlers included the Bray, Fickett and Davis families who cleared land for farms and  “one named Cox who manufactured hair combs” may have been the father of Judith Sarah Cox, wife of Jonathan Fickett. These were followed in the 1790s by Davises, Strouts, and Dr. Peter Brooks.

Sixth GGF and sea captain Zebulon Davis was living in Poland, then called Bakerstown Plantation, as early as June 1776 when he signed the Bakerstown agreement setting up militia for the Revolution. He was a captain, taken prisoner by the British and confined for an extended time at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Wife, Mary Bray, and younger four children, including Aaron, moved from Gloucester to Poland with their dad.

4th GGFJonathan Fickett arrived in Poland from Falmouth, ME, soon after his marriage to Judith Sarah Cox in 1788. Judith Sarah died in 1800 and he married Solomon Bryant's daughter, Betsey, in 1804. 

The Strouts were seafaring families from the Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, Maine areas. Our Strout is 5th GGM Thankful who married War of 1812 veteran Aaron Davis Sr.  Aaron Jr. married Lucinda Oraing Brooks, daughter of our Dr. Peter Brooks.

3rd GGF Samuel Nute moved to Poland bringing along his widowed mother, Rebecca Wentworth, sometime between 1810 when he is listed in the Falmouth census and 1816 when he married Betsey Fickett. 


Fifth GGF Solomon Bryant’s sons, Solomon Jr and Christopher, first cleared land in spring of 1797 in what was called Number Three, later to become Woodstock. The brothers’ plan was to have ten town lots where the extended Bryant family could settle. Their sister, 4th GGM Betsey, married both 5th GGF Peter Brooks and 4th GGF Jonathan Fickett. Jonathan’s daughter by a different wife,  3rd GGM Betsey, was the mother of our Orsamus.  Gets complicated, huh? All these guys intended to take up residence in Woodstock from surrounding settlements. The Bryant brothers, got moved in by fall of 1798. Others followed the next year, including another Bryant brother, Samuel.

William Swan moved his family to Woodstock in 1802.  William’s daughter, Sally Swan married Solomon Jr.;  daughter Susanna married Christopher; and daughter Emma was the second wife of 4th GGF Samuel Stephens. William’s 17 year old daughter, Lucy, had an illegitimate son, Gideon, fathered by married, father of 9, Dr. Peter Brooks. Gideon was raised by William Swan and took the Swan name rather than Brooks.

While this preliminary settling was going on, the land which belonged to Massachusetts underwent various ownership/grant changes, finally incorporated into a town in 1815. An 1812 tax list shows those of our people living there were the William Swan family and the sons of 5th GGF Solomon Bryant - Christopher, Solomon, Jr. and Samuel. Peter Brooks and wife Betsey Bryant had come and gone.

The Aaron Davises, both Jr. and Sr., had moved in by 1815, Samuel Stephens by 1817, and Jonathan Fickett by 1818, settling on what was later the Nute farm.

Life was hard, everyone was poor, and the soil not conducive to farming. They had no stores or doctor, with the nearest "amenities" some distance over the hill in Paris. Fish was plentiful in the beautiful Bryant’s Pond, small game readily available in the forests, but winters were harsh, crops failed from drought, and fires burned through timber. Stories of privation are told that farm women dug up potatoes planted for next year’s crop in order to have something to eat.

Fickett - Nute farm, Woodstock

The Nute family moved to Woodstock by 1820, the same year son Orsamus was born. Samuel and Betsey were able to buy her father's hilltop farm with an amazing view.  They had 4 children, 3 daughters and Orsamus. When Orsamus left taking all his living family with him, no Nute descendants were left in Woodstock.

The tenacity, courage, and resilience DNA of all the above generations came together with the union of Orsamus Nute and Lovina Dunn Davis, the last of our Woodstock lines, and they left Woodstock for Boston with their infant son, our great-grandfather, Joseph Edson Nute, in 1864.

More stories to follow on these tough pioneers who rightfully deserve to be called our illustrious ancestors.