Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Preserving The Broken Threads

History often involves picking up broken or dangling threads of the past.
     Only two names of early residents of the East Deering Village remain on the extant list of 42, at Portland City Hall.  Over the last five years, four more names have been discovered and added to the list, leaving another  151 souls interred at the East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery as dangling threads of a history lost. 

     Ever the optimist, I long for the day when someone finds those lost 347 grave forms compiled by the WPA survey team in 1936, somewhere in the vaults at City Hall.  For the present, we will continue to the work to weave together the broken threads, to tell the story of the early settlers of East Deering Village and to continue the legacy of Samantha Allshouse and Kayla Theriault's endeavor:  "Unearthing the Roots of the East Deering and Back Cove Communities."

A simple white marble stone records:
Agnes wife of George Wilcox
died: April 2, 1864 AEt. 44 years.

This stone is one of the few originals, but was defaced by vandals
when the recovery project began.
     Little is known about Agnes Wilcox, but I will try to weave together what I've learned to tell her story.  It appears that Agnes was  born in the British Isles, probably Scotland around 1820,  and before marrying George Wilcox in 1858, she was married to a Mr. Dixon; possibly John.  There is a record of a John Dixon from Great Britain who was naturalized in 1847 and settled in Maine.  Sometime after,  he died leaving his wife and two children:  Alexander and John J. Dixon.

     Early City Directories from 1856 and 1858 contain the names and residences of George Wilcox and Agnes Dickson(Dixon) living apart.
George Wilcox resided at 18 Mayo Street and his occupation: Mariner
Mrs. Agnes Dickson, note the spelling change, indicates she was probably widowed by this date.

     Sometime after her first husband's death, Agnes met George Wilcox and they were married by the Justice of the Peace, Joseph Reed Esq. in Portland on September 27, 1858.

     Most of what I've learned about Agnes Dixon Wilcox has come from the Federal Census of 1860, four years before her death at the fairly young age of 44 years.  The document reveals the names and ages of her children from her first marriage,  and a new baby, George W., just 6 months old.

You will note that there are several George Wilcox men who lived at this time, including a George W. Wilcox.
  Is this the baby now grown?

 For now, the history of Agnes Wilcox remains just a thread of the past.  It is always my hope that readers of this blog who may have other bits of thread to add, will do so.  Agnes Wilcox story is incomplete;  but what we've learned, still needs to be told. She lived and remains a part of the historic record of East Deering and the city of Portland

A Poetic Break

     I found this poem I thought readers and genealogical detectives would enjoy.

     So much of the work to put together the story of the lives of these folks depends upon sifting through records, some accurate, some baffling; none-the-less, always an adventure.  This rings true as I record here what I've learned about Jonas Johnson.

     Jonas Johnson was born on February 3, 1783 in Pelham, New Hampshire to Amos and Bettey Pollard Johnson.  Jonas  appears to have been the only child of the couple. 

      In 1816, he married Charlotte Blake in Westbrook (Deering).  He was a Cordwainer, according to a city directory.  You will remember from my post about Francis Smith, that a cordwainer was a master shoemaker of fine boots and shoes.  Here's a photo to remind you.

      Jonas and Charlotte may have had a daughter, although the only evidence is from an 1830 federal census that lists a female child under the age of five years.  Prior to his death, it appears he was engaged in manufacturing and, even employed a seemingly, disgruntled apprentice, named Edward Sawyer,  who probably lived with the couple at their home.  There is an indication of this from the federal census of 1820.

     Jonas Johnson was also a man engaged in the community and in the politics of the day.  I found evidence of this in newspaper articles that I will include.  When he died on December 2, 1837, his wife Charlotte,  as administrator of his estate, offered his property for sale consisting of:
two acres of land, with a house and barn thereon;  five acres and a half of pinewood land, and a pew in the Universal meeting house, excepting the widow's dower, in the same; all situated in Westbrook in said county.
     Charlotte was seeking $180.  for all of this. What became of her after her husband's death?  I found a record of a widow named Charlotte Johnson in New Hampshire,  but it's inconclusive.  Again, more broken threads.

     I offer some of the pieces I found in the story of Jonas Johnson for your interest and curiosity.

Birth Record

The record list the mother as Bettey.  A search revealed her maiden name as Pollard.

I have not been able to trace Charlotte Blake's lineage to date.

I found this record to be confusing, but I do think that the young man listed may have been the apprentice, Edward Sawyer.

Apparently, Edward was not happy in his situation as apprentice!

I haven't been able to determine which bridge is being proposed here at this time.

It appears Jonas Johnson;s age is recorded as fifty-three.

     Jonas Johnson was an interesting man  whose life contributed to the fabric of of the East Deering community and the part it played in the growth of Portland and the state of Maine.  Again, if any followers of 'The Remnant" have threads to add to his story or to any of the other stories I've shared, please do so.

 Finally, please keep this date in mind:  Sunday, September 13, 2015 at or about 2 PM at the Grand Trunk Cemetery in Portland.  We have received a government issued replacement stone for Joseph Lunt, veteran of the Revolutionary War,  and will hold the ceremony of Dedication on that day.  
A formal invitation will be issued in August.  Look for details then.

Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
So many years ago 
Spreads out among the ones you left

Who would have loved you so. 

I wonder if you lived and loved,

I wonder if you knew 

Thant someday I would find this spot,

And come to visit you.