Friday, December 28, 2018

As 2018 Comes to A Close

A Brief Reflection

During this year, events sponsored by our Portland Girl Scouts brought new people to East Deering and our Grand Trunk Cemetery to participate in our annual Spring and Fall Cleanup and Planting parties.  Many of the families, like so many members of the Portland community had no idea that this cemetery existed, and on their first visit, were surprised and intrigued by its history.  'I love teachable moments!'

We finally  got our new sign and the new fence for the cemetery, and the sick, old oak tree was removed, improving the health and over-all appearance of the ancient burial ground.

As a result of the Girl Scout Bronze Award project in May, increased numbers of people participated in the Spring Cleanup,  and a new Facebook page was established to pass on information about the cemetery, events and stories of those interred there. 

 I started sharing posts under the title: 'On this day, in_____, (Someone) died.'  This is an opportunity to share what little information I have been able to glean about those whose names have survived in our records.  Here is the link for those who want to access thee page.


This Facebook page, and posts from this blog, have  enabled me to connect with others who have ties to descendants of some interred here at the GTC and beyond to other communities.  I am always amazed  at where my research will take me,  particualrily when finding   connections to New England history,and the resettlement of the city of Portland.  It is a continuous adventure.

So to highlight the year, I thought I would share an album of some of these events and achievements.

Laying Flags for Memorial Day

Norma and Ben Sawyer at the Spring Cleanup in May

Kayla Theriault still active in the Preservation of the GTC

The Girl Scout Bronze Award project with activities to encourage greater participation

Fun and Games

Many hands make light work!

Wonderful volunteers

The Bronze Award Candidates and their Leaders

Hand-painted stones express care and hope.

Preparing the new rail fence for the GTC

A section completed

What remained from the old oak tree after it was cut down

The tree was hollow, but the size reveals it was probably at least 300 years old.

The work was completed in August

Planted annuals in June

Portland Cemeteries Crew install the new street sign in front of Presumpscot School

Annual Fall Cleanup and Founder's Day Event

New families particpate on this cool damp day in October.

I am the spectre of Juliette Gordon Low sharing stories with Daisy Girl Scouts

Christmas Wreaths 2018

I think this poem could be said for our GTC

Snow covered the cemetery last February.

A peaceful place for walking and reflecting

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a Happy New Year to come!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Strange Tale

     On this day, December 15, 1692, Margaret Skillings Prince was released from the jail in Ipswich where she had been imprisoned since her arrest in September for witchcraft, along with Elizabeth Dicer of Gloucester.  A bond of 200 pounds was paid by Margaret's son, Thomas Prince and Dicer's son-in-law, Richard Tarr.  The women were released in their own recognizance until their trial.  Legend has it that Tarr may have hidden the women in Dogtown Commons until the crisis abated.

     Margaret was the sister of the late Thomas Skillings, and the wife of Thomas Prince, Sr. who died in 1690.  Margaret and Thomas had six children, one of whom was Mary Prince Rowe, also accused of witchcraft.  Mary's daughter, Abigail Rowe, age 15,  would also be accused and jailed.

  The epidemic of withcraft hysteria spread throughout the colony.  In the small settlement of Gloucester, nine fairly prominent women were accused and jailed in Ipswich.  The Prince family and the Rowes owned a great deal of land throughout the town.  Undoubtably, this was at issue for some of the locals.  Only Andover and Salem Village had more victims of accusations.


     The Salem Witch Trials have held a fascination for people for decades, but the real life affect on those who lived through it, had to have been devastating, not only for the accused, and executed, but their families, neighbors and friends, and the historical implications for New England and the Nation are unquestionable.

     This may seem a strange inclusion in this blog dedicated to the memory of those persons who settled in Portland and particularily the East Deering neighborhood, but I think the story is worth telling, and I hope readers will find it as interesting as I did writing it.  I firmly believe that history, if reported honestly, reveals the best and the worst of human interractions, during the periods of enlightment and darkness.  This period of history is no exception.

     Looking back:  Thomas Skillings, who came from Gloucester in Cape Ann, died in 1667, just eleven years after settling on his land from a grant received from George Cleeves.  His wife, Deborah moved back to Cape Ann, probably with her daughter, Deborah and her youngest children.  She was married a second time to George Hadley (1628 - 1787) where the couple lived in West Ipswich (Topsfield).

Connection to the Witchcraft Trials

   Deborah is known to have given a depostion in the trial of Elizabeth Howe to support her claims of innocence. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was found guilty and executed on July 19, 1692.

     Cotton Mather,

 the brilliant Puritan writer and theologian, in an attempt to justify the actions of the Colonial courts, chose five of the least controversial trials to include as evidence; one of them was Elizabeth Howe's, however, he chose to leave out Deborah's favorable depostion:

The deposition of Deborah Hadley, aged about seventy years:  This deponent testifieth that and sh. that I have lived near to Elizabeth Howe (ye wife of James Howe Jr. of Ipswich) 24 years and have found her a neighborly woman, conscientious in her dealings, faithful in her promise, and Christianlike inn her conversation so far as I have observed and further saith not.

    Deborah's brother Thomas Prince (1628 - 1690) married Margaret Skillings, (1625 - 1706).  Margaret and Thomas Prince had six children and lived in Gloucester and owned a number of properties near the harbor, on what became the historic Front Street Block.

  According to the Gloucester archives, Margaret was an outspoken woman, and a bit of a trouble-maker, as was her fellow accusee, Elizabeth Dicer.  Two years after, her husband Thomas died, Margaret and Dicer were accused by Ebenezer Babson on behalf of is mother,  the widow Eleanor Babson on September 3, 1692.   Margaret was indicted and also accused of afflicting Elizabeth Booth, of Salem Village (Danvers).

For this flurry of defendents questioned on Monday, Setember 5, four examination records are still extant:  those of Margaret Prince of Gloucester and the three Reading residents accused by Mary Marshall.  Betty Hubbard, who had relatives in Gloucester accused Prince of  having killed a woman there, she, Mary Warren, and two young women of the Booth family were afflicted at Prince's examination, where the suspect resolutely insisted on her innocence.
                In The Devil's Snare The Salem Wichcraft Crisis of 1692
                                               by Mary Beth Norton, p. 261 

Note:  There are many documents, books and articles about The Witchcraft trials, numerous theories about its causes from reputable historians, psychologists, doctors and others.  I have spent a lot of time looking at these, but my intention here is to tell a short story of one family's involvement and tangential connection to a piece of Portland, and Maine's history.  Two of the books which I have found most informative are the above mentioned and Emerson W. Baker's, A Storm of Witchcraft:  The Salem Trials And The American Experience.

 In many ways, the Bay Colony was a wonder, a great success story of the establishment and groeth of a prosperous colony.  Yet by the 1690's growing tensions were developing across Massachusetts.  A range of factors, including a new charter and government, a lethal frontier war, and a decline in religious fervor, would serve as kindling for a bonfire in 1692.  If Massachusetts was the tinder box, Salem waas the match, and the religious and political conflict that consumed it, made it ripe for a witch hunt.  pp. 9 and 10

Returning to our Maine connection 

     Two of Thomas Skillings' sons remained in Falmouth to work their father's farm and to establish lives of their own.  Thomas, Jr. married Mary Lewis, the daughter of George and Ann Awards Lewis in 1669. ( both were killed on August 11, 1676 during King Philip's War)  After escaping to Salem,  it is thought Thomas died of wounds he received during the conflict.

     John Skillings married Elizabeth Ingersoll in 1672, and it is presumed he returned to Falmouth around 1680 from Salem.  But during King William's War which resulted in the destruction of Fort Loyal,  Falmouth and every village down to Wells was abandoned.  It is presumed John Skillings died at Fort Loyal in 1689, along with the whole Lewis family with the exception of a few children.  One of these survivors was Mercy Lewis.

     Mercy Lewis was but a little child, when her family along with others who were part of the small flock of the Rev. George Burroughs who escaped to an island in Casco Bay.  William Gould in his book, Portland In The Past says Bang's Island, others mention Cushings. 

      None-the-less, George Burroughs who had graduated from Harvard College in 1670 and came to Casco Neck sometime around 1674 to preach in the little village, though never ordained, was instrumental, through his courage, strength and ingenuity to save the frightened settlers.  His strength and ability became the source of legend and utimately, his undoing when he was accused of withcraft some years later.

     When it was safe, the folks moved to Salem, but would return only to be killed, captured or escape again during King William's War with the French and Indians.  During the interim, Burrough's took a post as the pastor of the church in Salem Village, not an advantageous move for the minister and his family.

     The constant conflict between Salem Village (Danvers) and the town of Salem carried over into the church community kept alive by prominent villagers. Another graduate of Harvard had preceded George, but left because of the constant bickering and the town's refusal to pay him a living wage.  Perhaps, George Burrough's should have taken the signs seriously.

 For a period of time, in 1680, the Burrough's lived with the Putnam family since there was no parsonage yet.  Hannah Fisher Burroughs died in chilbirth leaving George with a newborn and two other children.  He borrowed money for his wife's funeral from John Putnam.  Shortly after, he re-married Sarah Ruck Hathorne with whom he had four more children.

George Burroughs was hired at a salary of sixty pounds per year; one third to be paid with money and the other two thirds in provisions and fuel.  This soon became the crux of Burrough's deteriorating relationship with Salem Village.  Members of the Village again refuded to pay tithe, and soon the Burroughs family did mot have enough food or fuel to survive...
He refused to preach unless paid. All of his best efforts to support his parishoners were not enough, he became entangled in petty controversy.  Disaster soon followed, Burroughs wife died, an event which would come back to haunt him later. 

     When George Burroughs left Salem in 1683, he left under a cloud, owing a debt of 35 pounds.  There were attempts to make him stay, but the General Court ruled in his favor, and the parish was reprimanded.  The Putnam's had him arrested for non payment of his debts, but local villagers came to his defense only adding to the wrath of the Putnams.

     In 1683, George Burroughs and his family returned to Casco (Falmouth) where the little community was happy to have him back.  The town allowed Richard Powsland and Anthony Brackett funds for his family's passage and upkeep.  His Meeting House was located where the present Portland Company exists.  Although he was granted 200 acres of land, he gave it back to the town for their re-settlement, only asking for a small lot near the meeting house.  He asked for no financial compensation.  Apparently, his generosity would be used against him later.

     It appears he was a well respected religious leader and beloved by his flock of attendees at his church.  Sometime in 1885, he was invited to dinner with Judge Samuel Sewall,at his Boston home, as mentioned in the judges's diary.  A year later Burroughs was invited to preach to the General Court at York.  Despite all his troubles in Salem, it appears George Burroughs was well respected elsewhere.

Samuel Sewall, once a friend, would became one of the presiding judges at the trial for witchcraft of Rev, George Burroughs

     Here is where it becomes confusing about the sequence of events. At some point, Mercy Lewis lost all of her family; parents, cousins, aunts and uncles during the Indian wars, and came to live with the Burroughs' family as a servant for a short time.  Her knowledge of George Burroughs would, undoubtably be shared with the Putnam family where she would later live as a servant and companion for Ann Putnam, Jr. Ultimately, she would turn against her former employer and play a major role in accusing him of sorcery and worst, as a conjuror and leader of the witches that beset Salem and New England.

      While the Crown and Massachusetts Bay Colony feared the frontier, there was a purpose to their desire to conquer the frontier and 'plant it as a garden.'

Puritans feared the frontier for that is where the Indians and French lived,in their view, in alliance with the devil.  The author of In The Devil's Snare records this in her introduction:
The histories of King William's War, after 1688, and King Philip's War (its equally brutal predecessor in the 1670's) and the Salem Witchcraft crisis, are intricately intertwined.

     Emerson Baker mentions that more than forty individuals who participated in the Salem Witch trials, "from afflicted girls and accused witches, to Governor William Phips, had lived or owned land in Maine or had a close family menber from the frontier."  

     Among the afflicted girls, Abigail Hobbs, Mercy Lewis, Susannah Sheldon, Sarah Churchill and Mercy Short, all were refugees from Maine who suffered the loss of parents and relatives.

     When war again broke out again, George Burroughs moved his family first to Black Point,  and then even further south to Wells. By this time, his second wife had died, again in childbirth, and he married for tthe third time,  This would also be a point of conflict during his trials.

     It was in Wells, after relative safety had been achieved, and the family had settled in,  that a warrent for his arrest was issued. The Rev. George Burroughs a Puritan Minister would be taken from his home in Maine, on May 4, 1692, and forcibly  returned to Salem.  On May 9th he was examined by Magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, Sarah Churchill gave damning testimony.. He was moved to the Boston jail to await trial.  Of his accusers were Mercy Lewis and Ann Putnam Jr., along with others.  

For those of you who want to read the transcripts of his trial, they are available in the Massachusetts State archives

     On August 2, 1692, the Court of Oyer and Terminer heard the case against Burroughs, as well as cases against Elizabeth Proctor, Matha Carrier, George Jacobs, Sr. and John Willard.  On August 5, George Burroughs was indicted by the Grand Jury along with the others, and found guilty of witchcraft. 

     Although 35 residents of Salem Village petitioned the court in writing on his behalf, the verdict was set in stone.  On August 19th, he was taken to Gallows Hill to be hanged.  

     As he stood on the ladder with the rope around his neck, he still proclaimed his innocence, even reciting the Lord's Prayer; something no witch could ever do.  It was recorded that the crowd was amazed and some, moved to tears, and thought he might be reprived, until, the Boston Minister, Cotton Mather said, he was not ordained, he reassured the crowd that Burroughs' execution was a just court decision.

    There is so much more to tell, which time and space will not allow.  I believe the story of the connection to Portland's history was worth pusuing.  I'm hopeful that those of you who find it interesting will do your own sluething and share it here.

     Finally from Baker:

Pretty much anyone with a drop of New England blood may not have to look too far to find a relative involved in the Witch Trials:

70 people were afflicted, resulting in at least 169 accused
which led to more than 200 people signing petitions
of support for the accused.  Beyond this, there were
9 judges, 2 prosecuting attorneys and dozens of jurors.

Salem's trials truly are the trials of a nation whether we realize it or not.