A Personal Story
In 1998, just three years after my Dad's sudden death from a massive heart attack, my Mom was taken seriously ill and was taken to Mass General Hospital in Boston where she had brain surgery brought on my a series of strokes causing bleeding in the brain. Although the surgery was successful, she would never again be the same fiesty, beautiful woman we knew and loved.
Since I lived here in Portland, I drove to Gloucester and moved into my Mom's residence, Central Grammar Apartments (converted Junior High School I had attended) for the long haul, making many back and forth trips home to my own family in Maine. I took the train from Gloucester to Boston's North station. I think to keep myself from slipping into sadness over what I sensed was the inevitable, I took up knitting again, something I learned casually, as a girl. This occupied my time on the train rides.
One morning, an older lady sat across from me watching as I plied the needles. Suddenly, but gently she said: "You really should tear out the rows down to the stitch you dropped, otherwise, your pattern will never come out properly, and the size and shape will be off."
She was right of course, dropped stitches have a way of multiplying, resulting in a garment that does't remotely look like what the knitter intended at all. Fortunately, I've learned that lessen well.
At the time, prior to her illness, my mother still worked about twenty hours a week as an assistant to the Children's Librarian at the Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester, just across from her apartment building. She designed and put together craft projects for the children who visited the library. I think this helped her to be a little less lonely after my Dad's death.
After being discharged from the hospital, she spent her remaining days, of about two months, at a local nursing home where she was well taken care of, well visited by her many friends and family, but, ultimately was dying. She never recovered her sarcastic whit, her creative ability and talent, her energy, her voice, her mind. Apart from her physical situation, I believe she never was able to recover from the loss of her one love, her partner, her husband of over 54 years.
I chose to share this personal story as a prelude to the compelling story of William Blake.
When I first wrote about Samuel and William Blake (The Illusive Blakes Part II), I was left with several questions about how and if, they were related and whether William's old death record, taken from an old tombstone, was accurate. Dropped stitches in the tapestry!
Over the last five years, I've learned to ask more probing questions and to seek help from those who are far more expert than I, and to hunt for better resources. I had never taken the time to look at land deeds, probably because I had no idea how to access them for my purpose of telling the stories of the folks buried at the grand Trunk Cemetery. Thanks to Jamie Rice at MHS, I finally learned how valuable these records are because they contain more than purchase dates and land boundaries, they reveal names of neighbors and relationships, and in the case of William Blake, facts about his life.
- There were two William Blakes living about the same time period. Rev. Caleb Bradley's Diary contains the marriage of William Blake, from Cape Ann to Sally(Sarah)Starbird from Falmouth in 1806. This is not our William.
- Our William Blake 's first marriage was to Lucy Hodsdon or Hodgton on , May 23, 1805, she died two years later, on May 26, 1807.
|The obituary reveals, Lucy's father as Benjamin Hodsdon from Kittery. Rev. Bradley used the alternate spelling in his record of Hodgton.|
- William Blake's second marriage was to Sarah (Sally) Eaton on April 5, 1810.
- William Blake was the Grandson of Jasper Blake. (Source: Descendants of Jasper Blake, Emigrant from England to Hampton, N.H., ca.1643 by Carlton E. Blake)
On or about 1737, Jasper Blake moved from Hampton, N.H. to settle in old Falmouth where he purchased land easterly of Lunt's Corner. In 1738, there were about 8o acres and 54 square rods in his lot. Later, his son John Blake bought the north easterly corner of a square mile. Isaac Sawyer Jr. and Thomas Sawyer owned land on the westerly side.
Jasper Blake married Susannah Brackett, daughter of Capt. Anthony Brackett in Hampton, NH. They had seven children; six daughters and a son, John Blake.
One of the daughters, Mehetibel would marry Thomas Sawyer the son of Isaac Sawyer, relatives of our Sawyers interred at the GTC.
John Blake was born on October 6, 1724 in Hampton, and moved to Falmouth, where he married Dorothy Merrill on October 22, 1753. John and Dorothy produced twelve children, six boys and six girls. William Blake was born the youngest son on March 6, 1774. John Blake lived until the age of 90, and died in 1815.
In 1805, William bought a piece of land from his father John, probably to build his home for new bride. He was listed in future census records as a farmer carrying on the family tradition and living on land occupied by his relatives.
Sadly, William and Lucy would only be married for barely two years when she died at the age of thirty-eight and was buried at the East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery, referred to on the record of death as Presumpscot.
In 1810, William married Sarah Eaton . The couple were married for thirty-three years. In the census records of 1820 , there appear to be two children under the age of ten, but I have not been able to trace any information about them.
The 1840 census is more confusing than clarifying. The ages are somewhat of a mystery. There are two men involved in agriculture. One I assume is William who would have been about 56 years old, the other in his twenties. There is also an older woman between 60 and 69, and a woman who would have been Sarah, between 50 and 59. Sarah was born about 1776 so she would have been about 54 years old.
I've outlined the names of others who were living at the same time in the area now referred to as Westbrook. In 1842, William and Sarah sold a piece of land to a Mr. Dodd which looks like an easement for his property. I was amazed to find the names of other relatives in this deed and those that I will share,
In less than a year's time, Sarah Blake died on June 18, 1843 and William Blake's life changed forever. In 1844, by order of the Courts, Cyrus Cummings, an official of the town and Justice of the Peace was assigned as the guardian of William Blake who was declared non com pos mentis. His property was sold or mortgaged and he was committed to the Portland Almshouse and hospital.
|This photo was taken about 1880.|
The census of 1850, shows his age as about 70, actually he would have been 76. The final disposition of his property filed with the Court was in May 1853. I presume he had died.
I intend to continue this piece later because I have more to share including deeds and the record of William Blake's service in the militia during the War of 1812. The declaration of insanity during this period of history was viewed very differently during the early 18th and 19th centuries and must have been very difficult for William Blake's family and neighbors.
A final question for now: Was the death of William Blake's wife Sarah simply to much grief for him to bear and it sent him over the edge?