Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maine's First Printer: Rev. Benjamin Titcomb

Benjamin Titcomb was born on July 26, 1761 in Portland (which was then Falmouth), Maine. Relatively little is known about his youth. He was the fourth son of Deacon Benjamin and Ann Titcomb and studied at Dummer Academy in Massachusetts.

Detail from the monument of Rev. Benjamin Titcomb in Pine Grove Cemetery, which proclaims him "The first Printer in Maine."

Benjamin's fame came from his desire to see a newspaper printed in Portland. Having served as a printing apprentice in Massachusetts, he began to investigate the feasibility of printing a newspaper of his own and partnered with Thomas B. Wait. On January 1, 1785, at the age of 23, Titcomb printed the Falmouth Gazette and Weekly Advertiser. Not only was the first newspaper printed in Maine, it was the first piece of paper printed at the first printing office in the state.

The partnership between Wait and Titcomb dissolved by the next year, but Titcomb continued to work in publishing until 1798. Though he and his wife were Congregationalists, he made a rather interesting career move and began to preach to a new Baptist society group in Portland, becoming ordained in 1801. Some of the first meetings of their group were in Titcomb's own home. After the village Baptist Society was founded in Brunswick in 1803, Titcomb was called here in 1804 as their pastor. Titcomb preached at the Baptist church in Maquoit, and by 1825 there were over 100 members.

Rev. Benjamin Titcomb's home at 63 Federal Street. The house was built for him by Samuel Melcher III in 1806-1807 and cost about $2,000 (about $30,000 today). The house is more famous today as the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe--her husband Calvin and she lived there from 1850 to 1852. During Stowe's time, Benjamin Titcomb's son John was their landlord, and apparently a bad one. Stowe often wrote letters complaining about the poor condition of the home. Photo from the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 2152.3.

Apparently not all of the Baptist Society members agreed, however. In 1828 or 1829 a few of these people opened their own church on Federal Street as a branch of the Baptist church in Bath. Titcomb, who lived at 63 Federal Street, joined (or perhaps, led) them there, retiring at the age of 83. The Federal Street church "disappeared" after his retirement (Herring, 5).

Titcomb's grave in Pine Grove Cemetery, located near the rear of the third row from the right.

According to Wheeler & Wheeler, Titcomb also participated in the formation of Maine as a state separate from Massachusetts at an 1820 convention, beginning the meeting with prayer, and was an original trustee of Waterville College (now Colby College). Titcomb died at his Federal Street home on September 30, 1848 at the age of 87.

Nota bene: Titcomb was married, but I was unable to find any record of his wife's name. She must have been quite a woman--she and her husband had 13 children together.

Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopedia. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883.
Herring, Rev. C.M. Historical Discourse at the Semi-Centennial of the Berean Baptist Church of Brunswick. Brunswick: H.C. Upton, 1890. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1983.19.11.
"Maine's First Newspaper." Bulletin of the Maine State Library, vol. 4 no. 1. July 1916.
Shipman, William D. The Early Architecture of Bowdoin College and Brunswick, Maine. J.H. French & Son: 1985.
Wheeler, George Augustus & Henry Warren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1878.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Politician: Robert Pinckney Dunlap

In Robert Pinckney Dunlap, Brunswick could hardly have asked for a more devoted native son. Born in a house on Lincoln Street on August 17, 1794, Dunlap would go on to be the first governor to hail from Brunswick. Dunlap remained involved with his hometown for life, devoting himself to its college, church, fraternal organizations and government.

The second youngest of 9 children, Dunlap came from a prominent Brunswick family--his father John was a town representative at the Massachusetts General Court (Maine was not yet a separate state), and his grandfather--Rev. Robert Dunlap--was the first minister to settle in town. Dunlap was prepared for college by a private tutor in Topsham, and later graduated from Bowdoin College in the class of 1815. He studied law for three years under Benjamin Orr in Brunswick and Ebenezer Morely in Newburyport, Massachusetts before being admitted to the bar in 1818. He returned to Brunswick to practice law.

Portrait of R.P. Dunlap by George Swift (husband of Matilda Dennison Swift), 1895. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 84.

Judging from his resume, Dunlap preferred being a politician to practicing law. Described as "an old-school Democrat", his first elected position was as a member of the Maine House of Representatives in 1821, where he stayed until 1823 (Wheeler & Wheeler, 732). Next, he switched to the Maine Senate, serving from 1824 to 1832, during which time Dunlap served as its president for 4 years. Dunlap was elected in 1833 to serve as Maine's eleventh governor, a position he held for four terms (incidentally, this was the same number of terms Joshua L. Chamberlain served), longer than any other governor besides Albion K. Parris. After he left office in 1838 he took a brief respite from politics, before returning to serve in the United States House of Representatives for 4 years, from 1843 to 1847. Like Joshua L. Chamberlain, he served as Collector of Customs at Portland from 1848-1849. In total, Dunlap served 32 years in public office.

Despite a political career which took him from Augusta to Washington, D.C., Dunlap remained involved with Brunswick. In 1825 he married Lydia Chapman (1793-1868), with whom he had 3 sons and a daughter. The family lived in an impressive house at 27 Federal Street, which was probably built by Samuel Melcher III around 1825 or 1826. After serving as Collector of Customs, Dunlap was Brunswick's postmaster from 1853 to 1857. Dunlap was also involved in Bowdoin College, where he served as an Overseer from 1821 until his death--he spent the last 16 years of his life as the President of the Board.

27 Federal Street, the home of Robert P. Dunlap, circa 1860. This was the only 3-story Federal style home on the street until it burned on June 17, 1999. The site is now a vacant lot. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1989.24.1.

Besides Bowdoin College, Dunlap could also claim involvement in another great Brunswick institution, the First Parish Church. He converted to Congregationalism during the Second Great Awakening, joining the church in July, 1834. There, his family sat in pew #27, a pew which would doubly earn its title as "The Governor's Pew" when the family of Joshua L. Chamberlain later sat there. Near the end of his life, Dunlap served as a church deacon. Dunlap was also a leader of the Freemasons and a member of the American Bible Society. Like many of his fellow Mainers, he supported the temperance movement.

Monument to Robert P. Dunlap, which sits over his grave at the front of the 3rd row from the right. The white panel pictured here is dedicated to his role as a member of the Masonic Fraternity.

Wheeler and Wheeler report that when Robert P. Dunlap died after a week-long illness of typhoid on October 20, 1859, "His burial was accompanied with more ceremony and was more fully attended than that of any other which has ever occurred in town." (733) Four years later, a monument to Dunlap's life was under development. The April 3, 1863 issue of the Brunswick Telegraph reported that famed Portland sculptor Franklin Simmons was in Brunswick "to obtain portraits, photographs, &c., of the late Governor, to aid him in executing the bust, which is to surmount the monument". Below this bust, the monument contains three panels: one about his role with the Masons, one about his political career, and one about his family. Respectively, these panels were paid for by the state's Masons, the state legislature and Dunlap's wife and children. In the end, Dunlap's grave cost $1,000 (about $17,000 today) for the bust alone and about $100 (about $1,700 today) for each panel. Local cemetery expert Barbara Desmarais reports that, ironically, Robert P. Dunlap never wanted a monument, preferring instead a simple gravestone.

Ashby, Thompson Eldridge. A History of the First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine. Brunswick: J.H. French and Son, 1969.
"Dunlap, Robert Pinckney, (1794-1859)." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website.
General Catalogue of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine, 1794-1912.
Brunswick: Bowdoin College, 1912.

"Maine Governor Robert Pinckney Dunlap." National Governor's Association website.
Maine Historical and Genealogical Recorder, vol. 4. Portland, Maine: S.M. Watson, 1887.
Shipman, William D. The Early Architecture of Bowdoin College and Brunswick, Maine. J.H. French & Son: 1985.
Tenney, A.G. "Monument to Hon. R.P. Dunlap." Brunswick Telegraph. 3 April 1863.
Tenney, A.G. "The Dunlap Monument." Brunswick Telegraph. 7 August 1863.
Wheeler, George Augustus & Henry Warren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1878.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Receiving Tomb

Pine Grove Cemetery has one receiving tomb, which sits on Pine Street. A receiving tomb was an important building in any graveyard that was subject to harsh winters. The bodies of those who died in the winter were stored in a receiving tomb, so that they could be buried in the spring when the ground was softer.

Silent City on a Hill, a book about Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston, notes that receiving tombs had other uses as well. Bodies were stored there for short periods if the grave was not ready, or if a monument or tomb was not complete, or even if the body was to be shipped somewhere else. Storing a body in a receiving tomb had an added perk of preventing the "dead" from being buried alive, if in fact they were not dead. Check out an interesting article about the history of live burial--and the precautions taken to prevent it--here.

The receiving tomb at Pine Grove Cemetery, photographed in 1913 for The Brunswick Record.

The current receiving tomb at Pine Grove Cemetery was completed in late 1912/early 1913. On January 24, 1913, The Brunswick Record printed the following article about the new tomb:

"Handsome Structure Recently Built in Pine Grove Cemetery.
"The new receiving tomb at Pine Grove Cemetery recently completed by the Sanders Construction Co. of this town is probably the first tomb in this part of the country to be built of concrete. The structure was built from the plans drawn by E.E. Sanders. Although the trustees of Pine Grove Cemetery were advised by Massachusetts men not to build of concrete, the results have been so satisfactory that men are coming here from various places in Maine and Massachusetts to examine the new tomb.

"The building replaces the old mound tomb, and is situated in the southeast corner of the cemetery, near the Bath road. The outside dimensions are 18 x 23 feet; extreme height 14 feet. The inside measurements are 16 x 20 feet and its is designed to hold 34 caskets.

"The entire structure is of concrete, including the roof, which is made in one-piece construction, reinforced with steel. The concrete mixture was one part cement, two parts of sand and four parts of crushed granite. The wall, which is thirteen inches thick, embodies the new plan of making the tomb damp proof, the inside being constructed of gypsum tiles, with an inch air space between the concrete wall and the tiling. This plan obviates the dampness of ordinary concrete construction.

"The doors are of steel; the finished portions of the exterior have been rubbed with carborundum brick, and the panels were bush hammered to represent stone work.

"As will be noticed by the accompanying illustration, the architecture is plain Grecian, on the lines of the well-known Greek temple, giving a dignity and harmony that is unusual in such construction.

"The cost of the tomb was about $2500, and the work was done under the direction of a committee composed of E.H. Woodside, I.H. Danforth and J.S. Towne, trustees of Pine Grove Cemetery Association. They had good reason to feel proud of the structure, as it marks an important improvement in the cemetery, and adds beauty and dignity to the grounds.

"Mr. Sanders, head of the E.E. Sanders Construction Co., is receiving many compliments for his work. His company, which has recently been incorporated, makes a specialty of concrete and bridge work, and the plan is to have men of prominence in all branches of engineering included in the corporation."

The receiving tomb at Pine Grove Cemetery as it appears today.

"Handsome Structure Recently Built in Pine Grove Cemetery." The Brunswick Record. 24 January 1913.
Linden, Blanche M. G. Silent City On a Hill: Picturesque Landscapes of Memory and Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery. Library of American Landscape History, 2007.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dorothy "Aunt Dolly" Giddings

Of the 119 people who had their biographies printed in Wheeler & Wheeler's 1878 book History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell, Dorothy Giddings has the distinction of being the only woman. What did Dorothy--or "Dolly" as she was usually known--do to leave such an impression on the town?*

Dolly was born in Exeter, New Hampshire in January 1785, the second of the five children of Gen. Nathaniel Giddings (1760-?) and Anna Folsom (1762-1794). Through her mother, Dolly was related to Sarah Ann Folsom, the first wife of Rev. George E. Adams and the adoptive mother of Fanny Chamberlain. It appears that Dolly's father died while she was still young, because she was later sent to live with her grandfather and after that her uncle, Rev. Rowland, a pastor of the First Congregational Church in Exeter. In 1812 at the age of 27, Dolly first came to Brunswick and lived with Captain Richard Toppan, a relative of hers by marriage. For the next three years, she opened a private school and later lived with Bowdoin College President Jesse Appleton and his family. In 1815, Dolly left Brunswick to live with her sister Polly Bailey in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she continued to teach.

In 1818 Dolly Giddings returned to Maine, but in a most challenging manner. Thanks to funds from an unidentified "Boston gentleman", Dolly decided to open up and teach at a mission near Foxcroft and Brownville, Maine. There, she lived in a crude log cabin without a door, while teaching the youth of the area and even acting as a nurse to the sick, "exert[ing] her skill in the knowledge of disease" (Wheeler & Wheeler, 744). Once, when poverty in the area became overwhelming, Dolly travelled 250 miles on horseback to solicit help from her friends, returning to Foxcroft & Brownville with desperately needed supplies.

The Dr. Alfred Mitchell house, which stands at the corner of Park Row and Green Streets at the site of Dolly Gidding's first store in Brunswick, which she operated with her sister Harriet Boardman. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2008.93.

Dolly was finally torn away from the Maine wilderness when she heard that her sister in Newburyport was dying. Never able to turn away from someone in need of help, in 1824 Dolly went to Massachusetts to be by Polly's side. After this, Dolly moved back to Brunswick with her other married sister, Harriet Boardman, where the two opened up a millinery store on the corner of Green Street and Park Row. About five years later the sisters relocated their store to the corner of Maine and Mason Streets. Eventually, Harriet opened up a store of her own in the Dunlap Block (the same space later occupied by B.G. Dennison) and Dolly moved across the street to the corner of Maine and O'Brien (now Cumberland) Streets. She lived and worked at this location until her death.

Advertisement for a sale at Dolly Gidding's store, dated June 19, 1840. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH.1412.

Wheeler and Wheeler's biography of Dolly describes her Maine & O'Brien Street store: "Her stock was always large and of superior quality, and comprised not only of millinery goods, but almost every conceivable article of feminine apparel. Her counters and shelves were piled promiscuously with all sorts of articles and apparently in the greatest disorder, yet she could always quickly find any desired article, no matter how deeply it might be covered with other things." (588) John Furbish, another contemporary of Dolly's, described her store as a "land mark" (sic). Dolly also spent each of her last 46 years deeply involved with the Sunday School at the First Parish Church. Her renowned kindness and generosity led to her home being a known sanctuary for the poor and the ill.

The gravestone of Dorthy "Dolly" Giddings, located near the back of the sixth row from the right.
Dolly Giddings died on October 31, 1870 at age 85. Prof. Alpheus Spring Packard supplied the eulogy at Dolly's service at the First Parish Church, which was reprinted in her obituary in the Brunswick Telegraph. Packard ended his speech by saying "It needed not these statements to show that one departed friend was a woman of no common mould. Energy, decision, determination, a deep foundation of benevolence, strong individuality of character, were unmistakably revealing themselves in her daily life".

*This question really should be, "What didn't the hundreds of other women who had lived in Brunswick up until 1878 do to not deserve their biographies printed in the book?"
Tenney, A.G. Dorothy Gidding's obituary. Brunswick Telegraph. 11 November 1870.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alexander Thompson & Mourning Scenes

The death of a loved one in 18th and 19th century America had an effect we wouldn't usually expect today: the production of beautiful artwork. One example of unusual mourning art has already been explored in this blog, but today we turn our focus to mourning scenes.

Mourning scenes, or mourning pictures, are an early example of the sentimentalization of mourning, the practice of beautifying death which emerged in the 1800s. Young women, particularly schoolgirls, were instructed in the art of the mourning scene. A mourning scene was typically embroidered and/or painted with watercolors onto silk or linen. During the early and mid-1800s, these materials were quite expensive. Thus, mourning scenes were more commonly found hanging from the walls of upper-class homes.

Alexander Thompson, the subject of a mourning scene in the collection of the Pejepscot Historical Society, was born in Arundel on August 27, 1757. He served in the Revolutionary War for 4 years and 2 months. After marrying Lydia Wildes on April 8, 1784, the couple rode on horseback up the coast to a farm in Topsham. There, Alexander became a prominent member of the community, serving as a selectman for 6 years. In 1794, he was also a founding member of the Baptist Religious Society in Topsham. Alexander and Lydia would have 9 children together before he died on February 23, 1820. Lydia, born in 1764, would go on to live to the impressive age of 93.

Alexander Thompson's grave in Pine Grove Cemetery, located near the front of the fifth row from the right.

After his death, someone--probably one of his daughters--painted a mourning scene in Alexander's honor. Pictured below, it is in many ways an example of a typical mourning scene. In it, two women are depicted next to an urn monument which reads: "Sacred to the memory of Alex Thompson, Feb. 23, 1820. Aged 64. Mindless of love and friendship, cold he lies, deaf and unthinking clay." Behind them, a weeping willow towers over them, alongside an idyllic scene of nature and sprawling countryside.

Mourning scene for Alexander Thompson painted in watercolors on paper. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 101.

Thompson's mourning scene contains three elements common to this type of mourning art. The first is the urn on the pedestal, an image which had long been a symbol of death. Ancient Greeks had used urns to hold the ashes of their dead, and classical images had become quite popular in newly-founded America. The second element is the inclusion of mourners, which were almost always women. In Thompson's mourning scene, the two women depicted both wear Empire gowns in Regency fashion, another reflection of the classical style which was very much in vogue.

Finally, the image includes a weeping willow, whose very name reflects mourning and death. Author Teresa Flanagan points out that though weeping willows were often found in the cemeteries of New England, they were relatively uncommon in the Pejepscot region which included Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell. Despite this, the tree's association with death made them a key element in mourning pictures like Thompson's. Interestingly, willows were often planted in cemeteries because of the large volumes of water they are able to absorb, which prevented the cemetery from flooding. As I wrote about last week, trees like willows have the additional benefit of purifying groundwater near cemeteries.

Another mourning scene from the collection of the Pejepscot Historical Society also contains many of these common elements. This time, the subject of mourning is Sylvia Dean Hall (circa 1768-1794). Sylvia's daughter, Betsy (born 1790 in Norton, Massachusetts), created this mourning scene of ink on silk with embroidery probably around 1807 or 1808 at Mary Blach's school in Providence, Rhode Island. Betsy chose to depict herself, her brother and her father (John Hall, Jr.) at the time of her mother's death, rather than the time the mourning scene was produced. In June 1820, Betsy married Brunswick native Leavitt Taylor Jackson and relocated here, bringing the mourning scene with her.

Mourning scene for Sylvia Dean Hall, by her daughter, Betsy Hall Jackson, ink on silk, circa 1807-1808. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 108.

Just as in the later Thompson mourning scene, the Hall mourning scene depicts an urn on a pedestal, a weeping willow and a peaceful nature scene. The biggest difference between the two images is the inclusion of three figures in the Hall image, and two of them male, rather than the classic weeping female. Betsy Ring, the curator at the Rhode Island Historical Society during the 1980s, believes this to be the only example from Mary Blach's school where three figures are depicted.

Mourning scene lithograph by Nathaniel Currier. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1977.1.6.

Though the materials--silk, paint, linen--to produce mourning scenes (as well as the instruction to do so) were expensive, in time they became accessible to ordinary Americans. Another example from the collection of the Pejepscot Historical Society shows us that mournng scenes did become mass-produced as time went on. Above is a print by Nathaniel Currier (1812-1888), of Currier & Ives fame. The print contains the classic elements of an urn on a pedestal, a mourning woman and a weeping willow. But if you look closely (click the photo for a larger view), you can see that the names of the deceased on the monument has been added in pen. By the end of the 1800s, no longer was artful mourning exclusive to the wealthy. Beautifying death had become a democratic endeavor.

Flanagan, Teresa M. Mourning on the Pejepscot. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1992.
Green, Harvey. The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.
"Let Virtue Be a Guide to Thee: Needlework in the Education of Rhode Island Women, 1730-1830." Exhibit of the Rhode Island Historical Society, 1983-1984.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Businesswoman: Narcissa Stone

Narcissa Stone, one of the most influential women ever to live in Brunswick, was born there in August 1801. The eldest of the ten children (3 boys and 7 girls) of Nancy Hinkley (1785-1828) and Captain Daniel Stone (1772-1825), Narcissa was very much her father's daughter.

Captain Daniel Stone, as his title would imply, was once a sailor, but eventually gave up the life on the sea and opened a store in Brunswick. He became a prominent businessman and local figure and bought up much land in the area. When Narcissa was 4, her father moved the family from the house when she had been born (on the corner of Maine and Mason Streets) to the home where Narcissa would spend the rest of her life on Water Street--now the Captain Daniel Stone Inn. Appropriately enough, the Water Street home stood near the site where the town's first settler, Thomas Purchase, had built his own home in 1628.

Narcissa Stone's home at 10 Water Street, pictured here circa 1920. Narcissa lived here from the age of 4 until her death. The house is now part of the Captain Daniel Stone Inn. From Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH.1898.a.

Narcissa spend her youth helping her father in his store, learning the "basics of business" that became key to her later success (Kanes, 199). She was also formally educated, unlike the vast majority of women of her day. Capt. Daniel died in 1825, followed by his wife Nancy in 1828, leaving Narcissa not only in charge of her father's store and real estate, but also of all her younger siblings--the youngest of whom was just 6 when they became orphans. She ran the store for several years until the estate was settled, and branched out into many other business ventures. As her obituary puts it, Narcissa's business acumen "would have led one to believe that she was brought up in the counting-house of some extensive merchant or banker instead of the family circle."

While still in her twenties, Narcissa became a real estate developer, buying and--after as one contemporary of hers put it "considerably improv[ing]" it--selling much property in Brunswick and the surrounding areas. In 1851, for example, she sold the town a plot of land at the corner of Federal and Green streets for $1,000, on which the town built the first Brunswick high school. She later branched out to manufacturing. In 1834 Narcissa, along with a group of prominent men in town (Robert Pinckney Dunlap, John C. Humphreys, David Dunlap, Joseph McKeen, James McKeen and Dr. Isaac Lincoln) founded the Brunswick Company which manufactured cotton, wool, iron and steel. She converted a horse stable into a steam mill to produce lumber and grind grain and built many dams to provide power to her manufacturing interests.

The first Brunswick High School, which stood at the corner of Green and Federal Streets. The town purchased the land from Narcissa Stone in 1851 for $1,000. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2119.c.

Narcissa was no miser, however. Her considerable wealth--at the time of her death she was reportedly worth $60,000 (approximately $1.1 million today)--allowed her to donate money to many local churches. Though she was a Baptist, she also donated money to St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Narcissa's obituary even reports that she helped fund the education of an African-American man in Raleigh, North Carolina. Narcissa--"a persistent reader"--was renown for her intelligence and took a particular interest in natural history, collecting interesting specimens and displaying them in a cabinet in her home. Professor Parker Cleaveland was a friend of hers, as was Prof. Alpheus Spring Packard, who had known when she was young.

The Stone family monument in Pine Grove Cemetery, where Narcissa, her parents and siblings are buried.

Six days after what was probably a stroke paralyzed here, Narcissa Stone died on November 18, 1877. Never having married, the only member of Narcissa's family to outlive her was her younger brother, Daniel H. At the time of her death at age 76 she was one of the oldest people in Brunswick and her obituary reported that hers "was one of the largest private funerals we ever attended in this village." "[A] more intelligent and clear-headed woman" Narcissa's obituary reads, "never lived."

Footstone marking Narcissa's grave in the Stone family plot. Narcissa is buried in the fourth row from the right--see this map from the Brunswick Women's History Trail website.

Click here to see the only known photograph of Narcissa Stone, from the collection of the Portland Museum of Art. Narcissa was a relative of the McLellan (sometimes spelled McClellan) family, whose home became part of the museum.

Furbish, John. Facts About Brunswick, Maine. Curtis Memorial Library website.
Greenspan, Ezra. George Palmer Putnam: Representative American Publisher. State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.
Kanes, Candace A. "Revisiting Main Street: Uncovering Women Entrepreneurs." Her Past Around Us: Interpreting Sites of Women's History. Polly Welts Kaufman & Katharine T. Corbett, eds. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2003.
Tenney, A.G. "Paralysis." Brunswick Telegraph. 16 November 1877.
Tenney, A.G. "Miss Narcissa Stone." Brunswick Telegraph. 23 November 1877.
Property deeds relating to land at the corner of Federal & Green Streets, Brunswick. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2008.276, 2008.291 & 2008.292.
Wheeler, George Augustus & Henry Warren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1878.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cemeteries & Public Health

What may seem like a silly question has actually been a matter of debate for at least a hundred years: can a cemetery kill you?

The issue revolves around concerns of public health and water contamination caused by cemeteries. In the crowded church and graveyards of Europe it became a particular concern, as early as the 1800s, but America has not been immune to the debate. In her famous book The American Way of Death Revisited, Jessica Mitford concludes that while the decomposing bodies of those who died "from typhoid, cholera, plague, and other enteric infections" could pose a danger to local drinking water, "the body of a person who has died of a noncommunicable illness, such as heart disease or cancer, presents no hazard whatsoever" (57).

American funeral directors have long advertised embalming as a way to prevent the spread of disease, an argument with which Mitford clearly disagrees. Interesting, at least one study seems to point to the dangers of embalming to public health. In their paper "Old Cemeteries, Arsenic, and Health Safety", John L. Konefes and Michael K. McGee describe the early history of embalming in America. Gaining popularity during the Civil War as a way to ship dead soldiers home, embalming preserved a body for travel. As Knoefes and McGee explain, many of the embalming solutions used from the Civil War in the 1860s until 1910 contained arsenic "because it effectively killed or halted the microorganisms responsible for decomposition" (15). According to their findings, water sources near cemeteries in use during this time period have occasionally been found to have elevated levels of arsenic.

Despite the findings of Konefes and McGee, the primary health concern related to cemeteries continues to be disease. Unfortunately, there is conflicting information on the subject. Though some bacteria can survive in soil for hundreds of years, the World Health Organization notes that there have been no clear cases of epidemics caused by cemetery seepage into groundwater. A British study found that bacteria from a cemetery's corpses were finding their way into the groundwater at the cemetery, but concluded that it was "unlikely the contamination would spread far from the cemetery before being rendered harmless."

Pine Grove Cemetery was not immune to concerns about the health of residents near or visiting the cemetery. In the 1860s, the Brunswick Telegraph reported that some Brunswick citizens were troubled by the number of the trees surrounding the cemetery. The trees shaded the cemetery, preventing the land from drying out and posing a health hazard, they argued. Interestingly, the World Health Organization recommends just the opposite to prevent the spread of disease: deep-rooted trees near and in cemeteries suck up contaminated ground water, purifying it. Twenty years later, the newspaper remained wary about the issue. In April 1886, the Brunswick Telegraph advised: "Let us give again, as we have given before several times, a hint not to drink the water from the pump which stands under the arbor [at Pine Grove Cemetery]. That water is simply saturated with poison from the decay of the bodies deposited in the ground." (emphasis in original)

Calhoun, Charles C. A Small College in Maine: Two Hundred Years of Bowdoin. Brunswick: Bowdoin College, 1993.
"Cemetery." Brunswick Telegraph. 2 April 1886.
Gregory, David. "Water Tainted by Corpse Bacteria." BBC News website, 10 August 2001.
Knoefes, John L. & Michael K. McGee. "Old Cemeteries, Arsenic, and Health Safety."Cultural Resource Management (National Park Service), v. 9 no. 10, pages 15-18.
Mitford, Jessica. The American Way of Death Revisited. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Ucisik, Ahmet S. & Philip Rushbrook. "The Impact of Cemeteries on the Environment and Public Health: An Introductory Briefing." World Health Organization, 1998.

Benjamin G. Dennison, the Shop Keep

Benjamin Griffin Dennison was born to Colonel Andrew Dennison and Lydia Lufkin in Freeport on August 23, 1814. He was the second-oldest son in the family of 10 children, and the fourth born. Unlike his father, younger brother E.W., and younger sisters Julia and Matilda, B.G. (as he was known) decided not to become involved in the family box business. Rather, B.G. tried many different careers.

Photo of Benjamin Griffin Dennison, prominent Brunswick citizen.
From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 1726.32.f.

The first reference to what B.G. did for a living comes from Wheeler & Wheeler. They write that B.G. operated a bookbindery "from about 1833 until 1855, when he sold out to H.J.L. Stanwood" (579). During that time, on October 8, 1838, B.G. married Susan Towns. The couple had two children, Susan Jane (born 1841) and Benjamin Lithgow (born 1843). B.G.'s son would later follow in his father's footsteps and pursue many of the same career paths.

We next find B.G. in 1859 as an officer in the Brunswick Gas-Light Company, a local utility which existed before electricity and provided light for homes and streets. Many of the old buildings in town, such as the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum and the Skolfield-Whittier House, still bear the evidence of these gas lights, including gas fixtures rewired for electricity. On April 8, 1861, B.G. took on yet another job, this time as postmaster. Appointed to the position by President Lincoln, B.G. delivered local mail for about 6 years. According to his obituary, B.G.'s political views prevented him from working during the Andrew Johnson administration, and "he was removed from his office."

B.G.'s stationary store in the Dunlap Block on Maine Street in Brunswick, pictured in the background on the right side (the name of the store is barely visible on the awning) as a minstrel show passes by. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 1542.5.h.

Finally, in 1868, B.G. settled into a more permanent career. He opened a stationary store on the first floor of the Dunlap Block on the corner of Maine and Dunlap Streets in Brunswick. Not incidentally, the second floor of the building served as a factory of the Dennison Manufacturing Company, run by B.G.'s siblings Matilda and E.W. B.G.'s store was a five-and-dime and bookstore, but primarily specialized in fine paper goods like wrapping paper and later sold many photos of the area. The store even operated a circulating library, as it preceded the local public library. In 1887, B.G. passed control of the store over to his son, B.L., and appears to have retired.

Advertisement for B.G. Dennison's store printed on the back of a stereograph sold there. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1982.95.6.

Like his father and sister Matilda, B.G. was a devoted member of the Mason Street Universalist Church. He was also a member of the Mozart Society, a Brunswick/Topsham group dedicated to "the cultivation of musical tastes and..social intercourse" (Wheeler & Wheeler, 246) and the local chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Before the rise of the Republican party, B.G. was a staunch supporter of anti-slavery. In 1852, he campaigned for Free Soil party candidates John Parker Hale and George Washington Julian in the presidential election (the Free Soil party was a precursor to the Republican party--both held strong anti-slavery views). Fun fact! John Parker Hale's daughter, Lucy Lambert Hale, was engaged to John Wilkes Booth. When Booth was killed in a shoot-out after Lincoln's assassination, a photo of Lucy was found on his body.

B.G. Dennison died on April 19, 1897 at the age of 83. Though his obituary does not mention his cause of death, it does laud the man as "a gentleman of affable and social disposition, a kind husband, an indulgent father, and having lived a correct life, is mourned by many."

B.G. Dennison's grave, located under the tree in the second row from the right.

Leading Business Men of Lewiston, Augusta, and Vicinity. Boston: Mercantile Publishing Company, 1889.
Obituary of Benjamin G. Dennison. Brunswick Telegraph. 23 April 1897.
Rogers, Grace M. The Dennison Family of North Yarmouth and Freeport, Maine. Exeter, NH: 1906.
Wheeler, George Augustus & Henry Warren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1878.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

He's Number One!

We know relatively little about Major Lemuel Swift, and most of what we do know comes from Wheeler & Wheeler's History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell. Born sometime in 1767, Swift "probably" descended from William Swift of Sandwich, England. (Wheeler & Wheeler, 856) According to the Wheelers, Lemuel Swift arrived in Brunswick in 1790 from New Bedford, Massachusetts. A year later, Swift had set up shop as a hatter on Maine Street, a profession he continued until his death.

The Swift-Forsaith House at 106 Maine Street, built for Lemuel Swift in 1794. This photo was taken in 1967, shortly before the building was razed. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 1851.

A document at the Pejepscot Historical Society (acc# 2000.68) indicates that in 1802, Lemuel Swift was appointed as a captain of the militia. Sometime between then and his death he was most likely promoted to the rank of Major, the title with which Wheeler and Wheeler frequently refer to him. Swift also seems to have been a popular Brunswick resident, as in July 1803 he was appointed postmaster. Apparently Swift was unaware that he was up for the position, because he turned down the job. Swift was also a charter member of the Universalist Society of Brunswick in January, 1812.

Top: The family gravestone of the Swifts, located in the second row from the right.
Bottom: Though Lemuel is listed on the northern side of the stone, it appears that his original, simpler stone was not removed when the obelisk was added (or perhaps this slate stone was at Swift's original grave at another cemetery, and when he was moved to Pine Grove his relatives paid for a larger monument). Swift's smaller gravestone is seen here, leaning against the larger monument.

Despite his apparently high position in town, Lemuel Swift's name lives on for two reasons that he had relatively little control over: his home and his death. In 1794, he built his home at 106 Maine Street. The house, which became known as the Swift-Forsaith house, was home to his descendants for more than 130 years. When it was torn down in 1967, it was the oldest house on Maine Street. Lemuel Swift died on June 30, 1820--he was the first person to be buried in Pine Grove Cemetery.

Commission appointing Lemuel Swift captain of militia. 18 September 1902. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2000.68.
Original Charter of the Universalist Society of Brunswick. 20 January 1812. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 109.
Shipman, William D. The Early Architecture of Bowdoin College and Brunswick, Maine. J.H. French & Son: 1985.
Wheeler, George Augustus & Henry Warren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1878.

Special thanks to Ann Frey, who helped research Major Lemuel Swift.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Phebe Ann Jacobs, Freed Slave

Phebe Ann Jacobs was born a slave on the Beverwyck plantation in 1785. She wasn't born in Virginia, in Georgia, or one of the Carolinas. Phebe wasn't born in the South at all, but Morris County, New Jersey. Phebe was probably the daughter* of the farm workers and domestic slaves who were brought from the Danish West Indies to America by the plantation's owner, General Lucas von Beverhoudt. While she was still a young girl, Phebe became the servant of Maria Malleville Wheelock.

First page of Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs, by Phebe Lord Upham. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, pamphlet 227.

By 1817, Phebe had joined a church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, beginning her life-long devotion to Christianity. Maria, the granddaughter of Dartmouth College founder Eleazar Wheelock, married William Allen and, in 1820, Jacobs and the Allen family moved to Brunswick. There, William Allen became the third president of Bowdoin College. In 1823, Phebe and Maria joined the First Parish Church. Just five years later, Maria Allen died, drastically changing Phebe's future. It seems she may have stayed on in the Allen household until William Allen resigned the presidency and moved in 1839, when Phebe became independent.

Though it is unclear exactly when she became free--one source says the Wheelocks paid for her freedom when they first bought her--they may have felt pressure to free her once they moved her to New England, where abolitionist sentiments were more popular. Either way, when the Allens left Brunswick, Phebe bought a small house of her own, earning money as a laundress and seamstress for Bowdoin College students and faculty.

Phebe is remembered best for her pious nature. She studied her Bible religiously and and was a staple at prayer meetings and church services. Phebe's religious devotion was commemorated after her death in Phebe Lord Upham's pamphlet Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs, published by the American Tract Society.

The grave of Phebe Ann Jacobs, which reads: "Born a slave. For about 40 years a faithful friend in the families of Pres. Wheelock and Pres. Allen. An eminent Christian beloved and honored. Died, Feb. 27, 1850, Aet. 64."
Phebe is buried in the Allen family plot near the front of the second row from the right.

Phebe Ann Jacobs died on February 28, 1850, and is described in Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs:

"The next morning Phebe's body was found in her bed, cold and lifeless; her eyes calmly closed, the mouth shut, her hands placed by her side, her candle burnt out, her Testament and spectacles by the bedside, the door of her house unbolted; no smoke ascended from her cottage, and Phebe was not--God took her." (page 7)

The wife of [Rev. George E. Adams] died the same night with Phebe, and perhaps at the same hour of the night...To die with Phebe was a privilege; and the pastor remarked on this occasion, that if his wife had been permitted to choose a companion to accompany her through the 'dark valley,' and into the open portals of heaven, she would have chosen Phebe." (page 8, emphasis in original)

Phebe's funeral was attended by Brunswick's most prominent citizens, and the Allen family even traveled from 200 miles away to pay their respects to their former servent. Her service was held in the First Parish Church, the church she held so close to her heart. Professor Alpheus Spring Packard, Dr. Lincoln, and former governor Robert Pinckney Dunlap helped carry her coffin to Pine Grove Cemetery, where she lays today.

*Phebe had a brother and sister, Peggy and John.

Learn more about the Beverwyck plantation here.

Price, H.H. & Gerald E. Talbot, eds. Maine's Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People. Gardiner, Maine: Tilbury Publishers, 2006.
"Story of Phebe Jacobs." The Lewiston Daily Sun. 2 May 1923.
Upham, Phebe Lord. Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs. American Tract Society, no. 536. Pejepscot Historical Society, pamphlet 227.

Many thanks to the indispensable Barbara Desmarais for sharing her Phebe expertise with me!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Interesting Epitaphs

What can a gravestone tell you? Besides the obvious--date of birth, date of death and the deceased's name--all sorts of interesting information can be discovered.

This is certainly true for many of the graves in Pine Grove Cemetery. James Herbert Fuller's grave tells us that he died in Brunswick on January 29, 1856 at the age of 7 years and 9 months. But it also tells us his last words: "I never shall be weary, not ever shed a tear, nor ever know a sorrow, nor ever feel a fear." Do you know any seven-year-old who could be so poignant?

The gravestone of James Herbert Fuller, which can be found in the second row from the right. James' last words are now partially buried, as his gravestone appears to be settling into the ground.

Unlike Fuller, Lois Cook Bartlett lived a long life, from 1768 to 1857, when she died at the age of 89. Her grave celebrates this, listing the names of her daughter, granddaughter, great-grandaughter and great, great grandson. Her (rather confusing!) epitaph reads: "Arise daughter and go to thy daughter for thy daughter's daughter has a son. Five generations were present at her burial."

A gravestone can also teach us how someone earned their living. The Skolfields were obviously a seafaring family--each member died in a different part of the country. In 1826 at the age of 39, Captain Samuel Skolfield died at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. His son, Captain Curtis, died at Salilla River in Georgia in 1852 at the age of 28. Another of Samuel's sons, Reed, died "at sea" on Christmas Eve, 1834 at the age of 18.

The seafaring Minot family was an extremely well-traveled group. Captain John Minot died in Lubec, Maine in 1825 at the age of 58. His oldest son John died in the Bahamas in 1840, his middle son Henry died in Mobile, Alabama in 1842 and his youngest son George died on the coast of Africa in 1832. Stranger still, John and his son Henry died on the exact same day--February 7--17 years apart.

Perhaps most interesting of all, a gravestone can tell of how someone died. By far, the most common cause of death listed on the graves in Pine Grove is drowning. Frederic W. Humphreys, son of John C. Humphreys, died on November 18, 1848 at the age of 12 years, 9 months. He had fallen through the ice while skating. His epitaph reads: "It is better to die endeavoring to give life than to die attempting to take life."

Edward Clarence Metcalf did not drown, but water did indirectly cause his death. Metcalf died at the age of 23 in 1880. His epitaph reads: "Died of Malarial Fever contracted in the performance of arduous duty as engineer in charge of the sewerage of Memphis." Fun fact! According to at least one estimate, half of all the people who have ever lived on earth were killed by malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite.

The small gravestone of Lizzie Parker, who is buried in the third row from the right.

Of all the causes of death listed on the graves at Pine Grove, however, Lizzie Parker's stands out. The daughter of John M. and Elizabeth K. Parker, Lizzie was just 1 year and 9 months old when she died. Her epitaph reads: "Poisoned by eating 19 percussion caps."

The next time you travel past a cemetery, consider exploring it. Local cemeteries are a wealth of information, teaching us how our ancestors lived, worked and died.

For more interesting New England epitaphs, click here.

Cheetham, Donald & Mark. Pine Grove Cemetery, Bath Road, Brunswick, Maine, volumes 1 & 2 (Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2006.7.1 & 2006.7.2), 2005.

Special thanks to Barbara Desmarais, who told me about Edward Metcalf's grave, and whose knowledge has been indispensable in creating this blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Matilda & Julia Dennison Built a Family Business Out of Paper Boxes

Julia Dennison was born on January 31, 1826, the 8th child of Colonel Andrew Dennison and his wife Lydia Lufkin. Two years later on November 22, 1828, their next child—Matilda—was born. Both Julia and Matilda were probably born in the family home on Everett Street in Brunswick.
Photograph of Matilda Dennison Swift, a key figure in the Dennison Manufacturing Company. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1977.35.5.
Not much is known about the youth of these two women. Julia attended school until she was at least 14—a report card of hers, now in the collection of the Pejepscot Historical Society, attests to this. It was around this time that both Julia and Matilda became involved in what would later be the family business. Their brother, Aaron, a Boston watchmaker, enlisted his sisters and father to make paper boxes for him to sell his watches in. Their father would cut the paper, and Julia and Matilda and assemble the boxes, folding and pasting them together. Julia is sometimes given credit as making the first Dennison box, marking the beginning of what would eventually become the largest box company in the United States.
Almost immediately, the business became a complete success, and Colonel Andrew was able to hire someone to help the family produce their boxes. In 1847, Algernon Hinkson was hired and began working at the box “factory” in a room on the second floor of the Dennison home. Apparently a romance began between Algernon and Julia, and the couple were married that year. The couple had one child, Ann Julia, born on September 12, 1847. Sadly, Julia died in March 28, 1848 of unspecified causes. Matilda adopted the then 5 month old Ann and raised her.
The gravestone of Julia Dennison, who is buried near her father, Andrew. Julia was just 22 when she died.

Following Julia’s death, Matilda was the only Dennison woman who worked in the family business. On July 27, 1855 she married George H. Swift, an artist. In 1863, she was put in charge of a new Brunswick Dennison factory, and chose the Day Block as its location. There, she oversaw the production of J.J. Brown brooch boxes. Algernon Hinkson, Julia’s widower, managed the cutting room.
The Day Block, a building located on the north corner of Maine and Mason Streets in Brunswick. Just across Mason Street (and out of frame) stood the Mason Street Universalist Church, which Matilda was involved in. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1993.22.71.834.

Matilda was renown for her craftsmanship and the quality of her work later set the high standards of the Dennison Manufacturing Company. Her husband George, who had long been sickly, died in 1893. Matilda continued to live as a prominent member of the community and philanthropist. After the Mason Street Church on Maine Street burned in 1884, Matilda had the melted remains of the church’s bell—which her father had helped the church obtain—recast into a new bell. That bell now hangs at the Unitarian-Universalist Church on the corner of Pleasant and Middle Streets. Her generous spirit was not limited to people, though. Matilda had a soft spot in her heart for animals, and even raised a lame robin once, teaching it to whistle. She died on April 22, 1902 at the age of 73, after rightfully earning the nickname “Matilda Greatheart.”
Top: The Swift - Chandler Monument. Matilda Dennison Swift is buried here, at the front of the 8th row from the right, with her husband.
Bottom: Matilda's footstone.
Dennison Beginnings: 1840-1878. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2003.12.
Dennison Manufacturing Company. Fifty Years, 1844-1894. New York: Charles F. Bloom, 1894. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2009.172.
“In Memoriam.” The Brunswick Telegraph. 14 May 1902.
Leighton, Brian. “The Dennison Manufacturing Company: Its Beginning and Progress.” University of Maine, 1976. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1978.59.
Rogers, Grace M. The Dennison Family of North Yarmouth and Freeport, Maine. Exeter, NH: 1906.

Colonel Andrew Dennison & the Paper Boxes

Colonel Andrew Dennison was, quite literally, the father of the Dennison Manufacturing Company. He was born in Freeport on February 22, 1786. In 1807 he married Lydia Lufkin (1788-1848), who was also from Freeport. Andrew was a cobbler, and after the birth of their first 4 children, Lydia and Andrew moved to Topsham in either 1816 or 1817 so that Andrew could practice his trade. In 1824, they relocated across the river to Brunswick. The couple would go on to have an astonishing 10 children together (there are some sources which say they actually had 15 children, but I found no evidence to support this).

The only known image of Colonel Andrew Dennison. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc#1993.22.71.179.

Not surprisingly, Andrew often had a difficult time earning enough money to support his large family. He served as a sergeant of a regiment stationed at Fort Preble during the War of 1812. Yet he did not earn his title until he became a colonel of the Maine state militia. Andrew also served as the Deputy Sheriff of Cumberland County and tried at his hand at farming and local politics, with little success. In the early 1840s Andrew considered moving out of Brunswick to try his luck elsewhere, but ultimately decided to stay put.

Then, Andrew’s oldest son (and his third child) Aaron, a Boston watchmaker, enlisted his Brunswick family to make boxes for him in the fall of 1844. Aaron was so unimpressed with the quality of the jewelry boxes he had been receiving from overseas, he decided to have his family make them for him. The story goes that Aaron would travel to New York, purchase the box-making supplies, sent them to Brunswick where Andrew and his daughters Julia and Matilda would assemble them, and then the finished product would be shipped back to Aaron, who in turn would use and sell them to other jewelers.

The Dennison home on Everett Street in Brunswick, where the first boxes were produced. The home served as the main "factory" from 1844 to 1851. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1993.22.70.788.

The boxes became popular almost immediately. The family began producing them in a room in the second floor of their house, with Andrew cutting the plasterboard by hand at his cobbler’s bench and Julia and Matilda folding and pasting them together. Eventually, Andrew got fed up with the slow process of cutting the boxes by hand and designed a machine to do it for him. The result was the first box cutting machine ever made, which was utilized by the company for many years thereafter.

At first, the Dennison box company was shared by Andrew, Aaron and Andrew’s 3rd oldest son (his sixth born child), Eliphalet, who was more commonly known as E.W. By 1850, Aaron had decided to focus on his watch-making and decided to sell his portion of the business to his brother E.W. With this development, E.W. and his father began to butt heads over issues such as box quality and price, and Aaron was often forced to serve as a mediator between the two. At one point, Andrew even threatened to take the business away from E.W.

In 1850, E.W. wanted to move production of the boxes from Brunswick to Roxbury, Massachusetts, but Andrew balked at this proposition. E.W. eventually conceded. By this time, the company had moved their factory from the Dennison homestead to the second floor of the Poland Block building on Maine Street, where the company employed about 30 people. By 1855, Andrew had had enough bickering with E.W., and decided to sell his portion of the company to E.W. on February 1 for $8,000, with an additional $1,000. The Dennison Manufacturing Company would eventually become the largest box company in the United States and would branch out to make many other products. In 1990, the company merged with Avery to become Avery Dennison, a leading producer of office supplies.

The gravestone of Colonel Andrew Dennison, located 5 lots from the back in the first row on the right.

Freshly retired and no longer worried about money, Andrew lived out the rest of his life in leisure. After Lydia died in 1848 he remarried and traveled often. His obituary describes him as an early supporter of the causes of temperance and anti-slavery. One of Andrew's greatest passions, however, was time keeping—perhaps where his son Aaron got his passion for watches. He actively campaigned for accurate time keeping in Brunswick, and helped procure the town clock and bell at the Mason Street Church. In addition, he frequently visited the college sundial to ensure that his own watch was correct. In his last years, Andrew apparently was still quite active in mind and body. After a brief unidentified illness, he died on July 3, 1869 at the age of 83, as, according to John Furbish, one of the town’s oldest citizens.

Andrew Dennison’s obituary. Brunswick Telegraph. 9 July 1869.
Dennison Beginnings: 1840-1878. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2003.12.
Dennison Manufacturing Company. Fifty Years, 1844-1894. New York: Charles F. Bloom, 1894. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2009.172.
Furbish, John. Facts About Brunswick, Maine. Curtis Memorial Library website.
Leighton, Brian. “The Dennison Manufacturing Company: Its Beginning and Progress.” University of Maine, 1976. Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1978.59.
Rogers, Grace M. The Dennison Family of North Yarmouth and Freeport, Maine. Exeter, NH: 1906.
Wheeler, George Augustus & Henry Warren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1878.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Henry Leland Chapman of Old Bowdoin

A photo of Henry Leland Chapman, Bowdoin College professor. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 1951.d.

Henry Leland Chapman was born in Bethel on July 26, 1845 to Elbridge and Delinda Twitchell Kimball Chapman. When he was still a boy, his family moved to Portland, and he attended Gould’s Academy and Gorham Seminary before college. He entered Bowdoin College in 1862.

As a student, Chapman excelled in sports and English. For three years he was a pitcher for “the college nine” (the baseball team) and also rowed in with crew. Chapman also served as class poet for both his freshman and senior years, and was the senior editor of The Bugle, Bowdoin’s yearbook. He was also a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and graduated in 1866 with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

Chapman’s most popular contribution to Bowdoin College has to do with Ivy Day, a tradition which continues to be celebrated by students. The first Ivy Day was held on October 26, 1865, when the junior class planted ivy near the chapel. Chapman is usually credited with instituting this tradition, and he served as odist on the fateful day. Ivy Day traditions later included the awarding of a mirror to the most handsome student and a wooden spoon to the most popular student. (Learn more about the history of Ivy Day here.)

After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree, Chapman continued his studies at Bangor Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1869 with a Master’s degree. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a position at Bowdoin as a tutor in Latin and Mathematics, becoming a full profess in 1872. As a professor, he taught Latin for 3 years before turning to his true passion, English literature, which he taught until his death. On August 21, 1870, he married Emma Caroline Smith from Gorham. The couple lived at 79 Federal Street, which is now owned by the college. Emma died on June 14, 1892.

Chapman's home at 79 Federal Street, one of the oldest home on the street. The house, built circa 1790, was originally located on Maquoit Street, but was moved to its present location by David Stanwood in 1821. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# OH 1830.a.

As a Bowdoin professor, Henry Leland Chapman has a mixed legacy. His obituary celebrates his excellent memory, stating that “frequently in the course of his lectures he would stop and recite poem after poem from the works of Burns, Byron, Scott, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Tennyson and Browning”. However, Chapman became quite unpopular when he fought against the practice of hazing—many students and even some faculty members were strongly in favor of the ridiculous tradition. Least progressive of his teaching methods was what college historian Louis C. Hatch calls Chapman’s requirement of “a strict adherence to the text-book” by his students (Hatch, 177). Rather than encouraging students to think for themselves, Chapman preferred that they recite the thoughts of their textbook’s author.

Despite any faults he may have had, Chapman was always loyal to his alma mater. After the resignation of Joshua L. Chamberlain, Chapman assisted Alpheus Spring Packard with the duties of interim president. After Packard’s death, Chapman carried on alone as Dean of the College. He was even considered for the position of college president, but the board ultimately decided to hire someone more progressive—they would ultimately choose William DeWitt Hyde.

Chapman's signature from an agreement allowing the relocation of the President's House to its present location as number 85 at the corner of Bath Road and Federal Street. The President's House was originally located at 77 Federal Street, but in 1874 Peleg Chandler, the son-in-law of Parker Cleaveland, wanted it moved so his gardens at 75 Federal Street would receive more sunlight. Chandler signed the agreement with Chapman, allowing the President's House to move through Chapman's backyard to the location it now sits. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1991.71.3.

Besides his involvement in Bowdoin College, Chapman was a key figure in many state organizations. He served as a trustee for the Maine Missionary Society, Bangor Theological Seminary, State Normal Schools, and the Bible Society of Maine and served as vice president of the Maine Historical Society. Chapman was also a key figure in Brunswick. He was the official poet for the 150th anniversary of Brunswick, was a founding member of the Pejepscot Historical Society and later served as its president, was a charter member of the Public Library Association and of the Village Improvement Association.

At the age of 66, Chapman’s health began to decline. In January 1912, he broke his arm in a fall and was housebound until the following June. A year later, Chapman became ill with what his obituary reported as Bright’s disease, an affliction of the kidneys. He died on February 24, 1913 at 2:30am. Town officials attended his funeral and all stores and businesses were closed to mourn the man who had become so intricately linked with Brunswick.

Henry Leland Chapman's gravestone, located one plot over from that of Henry Hill Boody.

“Death of Prof. Chapman.” Brunswick Times. 28 February 1913.
General Catalogue of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine, 1794-1912.
Brunswick: Bowdoin College, 1912.

Hatch, Louis C. The History of Bowdoin College. Portland, Maine: Loring, Short & Harmon, 1927.
Shipman, William D. The Early Architecture of Bowdoin College and Brunswick, Maine. J.H. French & Son: 1985.