Finally, one hundred thirteen years and five generations later - a colonial Tolman ancestor not named Thomas!
Act I. The Massachusetts years, an inheritance, two wives, and 13 children
Isaiah Tolman (1721-1811), the second son of Thomas IV and Mary Rice Tolman, born in the Dorchester New Grant (later Stoughton and then Canton), must have been quite the character and adventurer, and undoubtedly, a super-ager. Despite inheriting wealth in his forties, Isaiah left a comfortable life in Massachusetts to move his entire family to the edge of Anglo-European civilization in Maine, and later to Matinicus, the most remote island off the East Coast when he was almost 70.
Isaiah’s father, Thomas Tolman IV, died young at 34 in 1724. Isaiah, only two years old at the time, his brother Thomas V, 5, and sister Mary not yet born when Dad died, went into guardianship in 1726. Isaiah first went with his uncle, Nathaniel, of Needham, then to Edward Glover of Milton, MA, when he was nine. Meanwhile, his mother remarried in 1725 to Joseph Hartwell of Stoughton, MA, and had another six children. The eldest of those, Elizabeth, married Roger Sherman, the only signer of four of the great papers of the United States - the Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution.
A probate hearing for his father’s estate in 1742 when Isaiah was 21, split a handsome amount of one thousand eighty-five pounds between Isaiah and brother Thomas V after paying 10% to their sister, Mary.
Isaiah married 19-year-old Hannah Fuller in 1745, and they had eight children over the next 13 years while living in Stoughton. Hannah died the day following birth of the twins, and neither twin survived.
Children of Isaiah and Hannah Fuller:
- Hannah Tolman (July 1746- ) married 43 year-old William Stone at age 23, died in Kennebec, ME, date unknown.
- Mary Tolman (May 1747- ) married Constant Rankin from Old York, ME, in 1775 and they had at least 9 children. Constant served in the Continental Army during the Revolution, stationed at Camden and St. George.
- Isaiah Tolman, Jr. (1751-1823) married Elizabeth Gregory from Clam Cove. Their home on Old County Road is still standing in Rockland. Isaiah Jr. built the first tavern in East Thomaston on King’s Trail, now Lake Ave, and he and Elizabeth ran it for 25 years. His house burned in 1792 and with the help of his brother, Curtis, he rebuilt on the west side of Tolman’s Pond.
- Jeremiah Tolman (1753-1827) married Martha Calderwood who was raised in Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine. Jeremiah was a private in the Continental Army in 1778-79.
- Samuel Tolman (1755-1826) married Experience Gregory, sister to Isaiah’s wife. He served as a private in the Continental Army in 1778.
- Experience Tolman (1756-1803) married Ezra. Bowen, six children, died in Union, ME, age 47.
- Elijah Tolman (1758-1758), twin, did not survive
- Esther Tolman (1758-1758), twin, did not survive
Left with the care of six children after the death of Hannah in 1758, all ages 12 and under, 38 year-old Isaiah Sr. remarried a year later to 20 year-old 5th GGM Margaret Robbins of Sharon, Massachusetts. Five more children were born in Stoughton:
- Lucy Tolman (1760-1846) married Deacon Job Ingraham of Gloucester who served six months in the Continental Army in 1776; resided in Rockland.
- Curtis Tolman (1762-1852) married Ann Harrington and also served in the Continental Army protecting Camden and St. George in 1779-80.
- Melia Tolman (1764-1860) married William Gregory, brother of Isaiah Tolman Jr.’s Elizabeth and Samuel Tolman’s. William was a captain in the militia. The family resided in Camden.
- Elijah Tolman (1766- ) married Sally Woodward in 1797; resided and died in Camden.
- Catherine “Katie” Tolman (1766-aft 1820) married Dr. Isaac Bernard, the Camden’s first physician who came to town in 1787, likely from the Boston area. The History of Camden notes "he lived at the harbor for five to six years, moved to the river, and afterwards shifted his quarters to different places, continuing but a short time in the same town.” He enlisted in the militia June 19, 1775, two days after the battle of Bunker Hill. When the War of 1812 came to Maine In 1813, Isaac organized the cavalry composed of men from Camden and Thomaston for defense of Camden. He and Katie had at least six children.
Act II. A Whale of a Move
In 1765, forty five-year-old Isaiah paid a visit to the area of what is now Thomaston, Maine, and purchased five hundred acres of wilderness around a lake adjacent to the Camden line, first called Tolman’s Pond and now Chickawaukie Lake. His brother-in-law, William Gregory of the Walpole, MA, area, had earlier moved at the close of the French and Indian War in 1762 to St. George’s Fort, that peninsular arm that extends south from Thomaston. Isaiah and Margaret moved from Stoughton to the area north of the Gregorys in 1769, taking with them eleven kids ranging in age from 23 to Catherine who was less than a year old. Another son, Nathaniel, was born within the year, followed by the birth of our 4th GGM, Margaret “Peggy” in 1773, and then yet another four children, Abigail, Isaac, Luther, and Olive.
|Map of Coastal Maine and Matinicus
Settling the Brood in to New Territory
Isaiah’s land was part of St. George Plantation when he arrived, later incorporated to form Thomaston, which also included what is today’s Rockland and South Thomaston. His area split off from Thomaston to become East Thomaston in 1848, and renamed Rockland in 1850. Isaiah was the first pioneer settler of Rockland, Maine, not to be confused with Rockport on the other side of Camden. It’s all confusing. I have trouble keeping it straight myself.
With the help of his older sons, Isaiah built a large log cabin as well as saw and grist mills near his home on the outlet of the pond. Isaiah’s occupation was blacksmith, perhaps learned from his apprenticeship at age nine, but he had a thriving business with the farm and mills, all run with the help of his sons. The farm provided cattle, sheep, and hogs, not only for food but also wool for clothing and tallow for candles. With the close of the French and Indian war, few Indigenous remained in the area and the threat was mostly bears. Even these receded as Isaiah and sons cleared the land by burning.
Isaiah was actively involved in the affairs of the developing town of Thomaston. Serving on town committees during the Revolution qualified him as a patriot with the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Babies Keep Coming
Margaret and Isaiah had six more children born in Thomaston, (now Rockland since 1850):
- Nathaniel Tolman (1770- ) died young.
- Margaret “Peggy” Tolman, our 4th GGM, (1773-1829) moved to Matinicus at age 17 and a year later married Captain Joseph Young, son of 5th GGF Abraham Young.
- Abigail Tolman (1775- ) was old at 32 years old when she married George Johnson in 1808, but still had two children. They resided in Camden and Rockland. In 1850 the couple was living with a son in Rockland; Abigail is buried in Glen Cove in the town of Rockport. Evidence indicates Abigail did not move to Matinicus with the family in 1790.
- Isaac Tolman (1778-1855) moved with his father to Matinicus and married Eunice Young, daughter of our 5th GGF Abraham Young, an early settler on the Island. Age 12 when he moved to Matinicus and living there his entire life, the island was all he knew.
- Luther Tolman (1780-1824) moved to Matinicus when he was 10 and married Jane Young, another daughter of 5th GGF Abraham Young. Jane moved off the island after Luther died by drowning at the young age of 44.
- Olive Tolman (1783- ), seven years old when she moved to the island, married John Hall, a descendant of the original settlers, when she was 17. They moved to the mainland before the 1830 census.
Remember the Gregorys that moved to St. Georges, then Clam Cove, just before the Tolmans? Three of the older mainland Tolman siblings married Gregory siblings, I.e, first cousin marriages. The Tolman siblings’ mother was 5th GGM Margaret Robbins and the Gregory siblings’ mother her sister, Experience Robbins, both daughters of Ebenezer Robbins of Walpole.
Further, of the four younger Tolmans who moved with their father to Matinicus, three married Young siblings, kids of our 5th GGF Abraham Young. Altogether, seven sibling pair marriages. Sure cuts down on the number of in-laws.
Winding down in Rockland . . .
In 1783, sixty two year-old Isaiah must have been feeling his mortality when he conveyed to the town one acre of farm land on a hill for a burial ground, Tolman’s Cemetery.
The last record for Margaret is the birth of her last child in 1783, the same year Isaiah created the cemetery. She was not in the 1790 census which shows a household in Matinicus with one male over 16 (Isaiah), two males under 16 (Isaac and Luther), and three females (Olive, Abigail, and Peggy). Margaret would have been only 44 years old if she died with the birth of the last child, and about 50 if she died just before the 1790 census. Isaiah’s conveyance of land for a cemetery in 1783 would lend evidence to serious illness or death around the same time. Eleven children in 24 years of marriage, raising an additional six step-children, and move to the wilderness - it’s a wonder she didn’t wear out sooner.
Isaiah conveyed his grist and sawmills to his son Samuel and divided his land among his sons in preparation for yet another life move.
Act III. Moving on to Matinicus, Two More Children
In 1790, the 69 year-old widower purchased 140 acres of the northwest part Matinicus Isle and relocated with the younger children - Isaac, Luther, Olive, and Peggy. The rest of the family, by now adults, remained on the mainland.
Isaiah married another wife on Matinicus in 1796, Jane Philbrook, and had two children:
- Lydia Tolman (1802-1868), married Samuel Haskell from Matinicus; at some point the couple moved to Knox on the mainland.
- Other child, died young.
In 1790, twelve families lived on Matinicus 22 miles off the coast of Maine, many making a living by lobstering and fishing. Sheep and cattle grazed on the 1 mile by 2 mile island, but there was little in the way of trees. Wells had to be dug for water. The only way to the mainland was by boat and, other than a small private airport, remains the main connection.
The unanswered questions remain. What drove Isaiah to leave Rockland where he had labored for twenty years to carve out a pioneer farm and raise his large family? And to choose Matinicus where he had no family, life was harsh, he was old, and he had four young children to raise?
Nothing lasts forever . . .
Altogether, Isaiah had three wives and 21 children. Four died young, but the rest survived to adulthood and had large families. Eleven remained on the Tolman property in Rockland; none moved out of the coastal Maine area during their generation.
The house and sawmills in Rockland passed down to Samuel were sold at some point to a buyer outside the family. In 1850 the once-prosperous family farm was sold to Rockland to be used as the county poor farm. The house was demolished in the late 1950s.
The Matinicus land and house would have passed to sons Luther and Isaac who stayed on the island the rest of their lives. The daughters married and eventually moved back to the mainland.
in December 1791, our 4th GGM Margaret “Peggy” Tolman, who accompanied her father to the island as a 17 year old, married Joseph Young who was born and raised on Matinicus. She bore five children on the island - the first just 5 months after marriage. A little hanky-panky on the island, methinks. Her third-born was our 3rd GGM Harriet Young who married 3rd GGF Samuel Packard, and two generations later is our grandmother, Alice Packard Studley.
The year following Isaiah’s death, Peggy and Joseph relocated to Lincolnville on the mainland where their last child was born in 1814, and then to Rockport. Peggy was returned to Isaiah’s Rockland farm to be buried in the Tolman Cemetery at her death in 1829, age 56.
Misinformation is contagious
Somewhere along the line, the family and history lost track of Isaiah’s age. Upon his death, newspapers along Maine’s coast, and down as far as Boston and Newark, published Isaiah’s death notice with information he was 104 years old, born in 1707.
. . . the same old gentleman we mentioned in our paper last year as having visited Boston, and walked up to the Cupola of the new statehouse. He then retained all his faculties and could read without spectacles . . .
At some point the death date became established as 1825 and his age 104 since his birth record in Walpole, MA, showed he was born in 1721.
A headstone in the Matinicus cemetery shows crudely chiseled, “Isaiah Tolman, 1825”, likely done by a later generation who had access to news articles, but not his birth record.
|From FindaGrave, Isaiah Tolman 1721-1825
Maine Families in 1790 and Long’s Matinicus Isle: Its Story and Its People give a death date of 1825. Countless Ancestry profiles note a death date 1825. His death date with the Daughters of the American Revolution as a patriot is 1825. The Lady Knox DAR chapter erected a monument and bronze plaque in the Tolman Cemetery with a death date in 1825, indeed specifically November 15, 1825. How could it be otherwise?
|Isaiah Tolman monument placed by Lady Knox DAR Chapter
The problem? Fast forward to our digital days when old newspaper articles are instantly available, and I found all the newspaper death notices were published . . . in April 1811. Surely, a mistake somewhere here. Then I came across ads placed by his widow and executor, Jane, in a mainland newspaper, The Castine Eagle, dated July 6, 1811 requesting “all persons who are indebted to the said deceased’s estate to make immediate payment, and those who have any demands therein, to exhibit the same for settlement.”
|Death notice in Newark, NJ, Centinental, April 1811
The actual birth record in 1721 and death notices in 1811 establish his true date of death and age, 89 years old. Even if not 104, that the old gentleman had all his faculties, could read without spectacles, and was able to walk up to the cupola of the Boston statehouse in the year before his death should qualify him as a super-ager.