Monday, December 17, 2012

Lillian Leighton's home in the 1924 Portland Tax Records

The Portland, Maine, 1924 Tax Records were created as part of a city-wide tax reevaluation. The 2 3/4" x 4" original black and white photographs provide extraordinary documentation of the appearance and condition of every taxable property in the city at that time. The accompanying tax forms provide equally valuable information, including the use of the property, the original building materials and finishes and the property's assessed value as of 1924. On the back of each form, a pencil sketch illustrates the size and shape of the building footprint on the property.

The collection consists of 131 books containing approximately 30,000 pages, each page recording a single property (properties with more than one building will generally have a page for each building). The records were kept in a cabinet in the Portland tax assessor's office in City Hall until 2009. They are now being scanned by a team of volunteers to provide greater public access while allowing the original documents to go into proper archival storage.

These records are now available at Maine Memory Network.

Recently, I was fortunate to find the tax record of 221 Sherwood St., Portland, Maine, the home of my 2nd great grandmother, Lillian Brackley Leighton (1864-1954), and her son Mark, my paternal great grandfather.

1920 Census

East Deering is the easternmost neighborhood of the city of Portland.  The neighborhood is situated between the Munjoy Hill and North Deering neighborhoods of the city, as well as the town of Falmouth.  Much of the neighborhood has views of Casco Bay.  The major throughways in East Deering are Washington Avenue and Veranda St.

According to this record, in 1924, this was an 8 year old residence, a frame house covered in clapboards. Its assessed value was $2,167, with a land value of $326.  There was 1 tenant and 6 "rooms and bath."

By 1930, Mrs. Leighton was joined by her 15-year old grandson, Howard King, whose mother Maud has died in 1925. (The house had been re-numbered to 223).

1930 Census

By finding this record, I was able to solve a house picture mystery as well. The picture below is undated.  But the pitch of the roof, the chimney, and the windows confirm that it is, in fact, 221 Sherwood St.

By sharpening, cropping and magnifying this picture, I can see an older woman on the porch, a young boy at the top of the steps, two women on the steps, and an older girl with a bicycle.  My guess is that Mrs. Leighton is the older woman, and perhaps Howard is the young boy.

By 1940, Howard King, his first wife Phyllis Crozier, and his young son Rodney, were living  at 223 Sherwood St., along with Lillian Leighton.

1940 Census

By searching the Cumberland County (Maine) Real Estate Records, I learned that Lillian sold the property to her grandson Howard in 1939 for one dollar.

The 1954 Portland City Directory told me that Lillian Leighton, widow of Enoch Leighton, lived in this house until she died.

This is what 221/223 Sherwood Street looks like today.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blog Caroling with Nova Scotia's Anne Murray

Joining all my wonderful Geneablogger friends in the annual tradition, hosted by the incomparable footNoteMaven, of Blog Caroling !! My contribution comes from one of our favorite Christmas albums, Anne Murray's Christmas Wishes

I just had to share one of Anne's songs off this album, and I chose Silver Bells, because it is a Christmas song from my own childhood, when I remember Christmas shopping with my mother in the old time department stores in downtown Portland, Maine, like Porteous, Mitchell and Braun's, Owen Moore, Lerners, and Benoit's.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style.
In the air there's
A feeling of Christmas.

Children laughing, people passing,
Meeting smile after smile,
And on every street corner you'll hear:

Silver bells, silver bells,
It's Christmas time in the city.
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring,
Soon it will be Christmas day.

City street lights,
Even stop lights,
Blink a bright red and green,
As the shoppers rush home
With their treasures.

Hear the snow crunch,
See the kids bunch,
This is Santa's big scene,
And above all this bustle you'll hear:

Silver bells, silver bells,
It's Christmas time in the city.
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring,
Soon it will be Christmas day.

To see the Christmas carols and songs that we all shared, visit footnoteMaven's blog after she compiles the list on Wednesday, December 19th.

Soon it will be Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Horseback (Sort of) - Wordless Wednesday

Robyn (2), me (4), on horseback (aka Dad)
Living room floor, 11 Bonnybriar Rd., South Portland, Maine
(Got to love that wallpaper!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Margie and The Maples Tea House

Margaret Pillsbury Carter was born in Portland, Maine, on December 9, 1885, the second child, and eldest of four daughters, of Frank and Emma Barrett Carter.  During her childhood, her family moved to Melrose, Massachusetts, and she graduated from Melrose High School.

In 1925, at the age of 40, she married Alexander Archibald Hamilton, a successful proprietor of an ice company, born and raised down east in Nova Scotia, and my great grandmother's brother.

Arch and Margie made their home on a farm along the Mohawk Trail in central Massachusetts, in the town of Orange, where they raised chickens and grew vegetables. The story of Arch Hamilton and the ice trade has been told in a prior blogpost, entitled "The Ice Man Cometh: Arch Hamilton and the Orange Independent Ice Company," but Aunt Margie's own career as the successful proprietor of two restaurants, deserves its own tale.

The following advertisement from the Boston Herald of July 22, 1928, beckoned travelers in their Model T's  to The Maples Tea House, beside the road on Highway 7.

The Maples Tea House
(vintage postage purchased on eBay)

By the mid-1930's, during the Great Depression, she even expanded her business, opening the Orange Coffee House in the Weymouth Hotel in Orange:

The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, Oct. 20, 1934, p.6, col.8

As a needleworker myself, I love this mention of a luncheon held there the following Spring:

The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, Apr. 4. 1935, p.6, col.5

In later years, as the ice business waned, Arch and Margie operated the Hamilton Tourist Home and Gardens, continuing to offer their warm hospitality to motoring tourists in the '40's and '50's.

Margie died on this date in 1963, one year after her husband Arch.  They are buried together in the Pembroke Cemetery in Upper Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Oh Brave Brackley Boys of Freeman

Private Orren Brackley1

They came from a small farming village in rural Franklin County, Maine, poignantly named Freeman, and the neighboring towns of Strong, Avon and Salem, my 3rd great grandfather, Howard Winslow Brackley (1829-1873) among them.

The Brackley boys fought as infantry men and cavalry soldiers, as well as light artillery. Most served as Privates, but one became a Corporal, and another a Second Lieutenant. Each had their own stories to tell, to be sure. One even wrote them down in a journal that survives to this day.

There are three among this generation of Brackley ancestors that have very meaningful stories to tell.

Rufus K. Brackley (1826-1863) was Howard's cousin and a farmer from Strong. A married man of twelve years, he enlisted for a 9-month stint on October 13, 1861, and joined Company D of the 28th Maine Infantry, serving alongside his cousin. The 28th Maine saw action in many hot spots throughout the South, including Chalmette, Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida, and took part in the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana on June 14th, 1863.  The 28th was mustered out on August 31st of that year, the same day that Rufus is said to have died.  Sadly, Rufus died at the age of 37, while walking back to Strong, Maine, because he didn't have a horse to ride.

Orren Brackley (1845-1921) left Avon, Maine, and went to war at 16 years old, encouraged by an uncle's gift of $15 to sign up. Enlisting in the 2nd Maine Light Infantry, he was eventually promoted to Full Corporal. in 1865. During his four years of service to the Union cause, he kept a meticulous journal, which remains as a memorable legacy with his direct descendants. 

Charles H. Brackley (1846-1864) enlisted from Salem, Maine, in the 29th Maine Infantry, led by Colonel George Lafayette Beal. The 29th left Maine for New Orleans on January 31st, 1863. It is there that, a year and a half later, Charles died of disease, one of over 190 soldiers of that regiment to do so. There is a cenotaph for Charles in the Mt. Abram Cemetery in Salem, Maine. His body, however, was buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Charles H. Brackley's Grave at Chalmette Nattional Cemetery2

Charles H. Brackley's Cenotaph in Salem, Maine3

1Soldiers of the Civil War, a chapter in “Strong, a Mussul Unsquit Village: A Legacy of Woods and Waters.” Website in partnership with Maine Memory Network. 

2Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 14 September 2012), memorial page for Charles H. Brackley (1846–1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32430838, citing Chalmette National Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana.

3Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 14 September 2012), memorial page for Charles H. Brackley (1846–1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 50217095, citing Mount Abram Cemetery, Salem, Maine. 
Additional information obtained from:
Thompson, George A. and F. Janet Thompson. A Genealogical history of Freeman, Maine, 1796-1938, in three volumes. 3 vols. (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1996)

This blog post will be part of the Great Civil War Genealogy Blog Challenge published by Bill West on his West in New England blog at the end of September.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Solomon Old and Wise ~ Wisdom Wednesday

Solomon Leighton was born in Barrington, in Strafford County, New Hampshire, on August 10, 1797. the second son of Stephen Leighton and his first wife, Mary "Polly" Emerson. In the terminology of the day, he was referred to as an "idiot."* Today, we might consider him to be a savant.

His father specified in his 1824 will that Solomon be looked after. He named his second wife Deborah as executrix, left land to his youngest son by his first marriage, Andrew, and his youngest son by his second marriage, Stephen, gave cash bequests to the other children, and gave Stephen responsibility for the support of his brother Solomon (Strafford County Probate, 30:33; 33:73, 82).

In the June 1880 Census of Strafford Town, he is working on Stephen's farm at age 82:

On August 13, 1900, the St. Albans (Vt.) Daily Messenger noted the 103rd birthday of Solomon Leighton, noting he could be the oldest living person in New Hampshire:

Note in the 2nd paragraph of the above article: "Events that happened ninety years ago are still fresh in his memory."  One has to wonder what a present-day diagnosis of autism might say about Solomon Leighton.

A 2nd cousin 5x removed, Solomon Leighton died later that same year, in Strafford County, New Hampshire, on September 23, 1900.**

* Leighton, Perley M. A Leighton genealogy: descendants of Thomas Leighton of Dover, New Hampshire. Compiled by Perley M. Leighton based in part on data collected by Julia Leighton Cornman. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical  Society, 1989.) p. 116.

** New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Officer Charlie Chase

Grave of Charles K.D. Chase 

Buried in the family plot of his first wife,
Artena Maud Carney

Evergreen Cemetery
Portland, Maine

Charlie Chase was a familiar figure around Morrills Corner, in Portland, his policeman's beat. After his first wife died in 1949, he courted and married another recent widow, my great great aunt, Catherine "Cassie" Hamilton Bustin.*  She outlived him by 7 years, and is, herself, buried with her first husband, Thomas Herman Bustin, in Pine Grove Cemetery in Falmouth, Maine.

* Maine Marriages, 1892-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003.
Original data: Maine State Archives. Maine Marriages 1892-1996 (except 1967 to 1976). Maine. Index obtained from Maine Department of the Secretary of State, Maine State Archives,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Capt. Andrew Leighton

In the West Cumberland Methodist Cemetery 


In memory of
Capt. Andrew Leighton
who died
June 16, 1830
AEt. 68.

Andrew Leighton, my fourth great grandfather, was born in Falmouth (now Portland) Maine on June 7, 1762, the son of Joseph Leighton and Mercy Hall. In 1780, he married Mary Weymouth of Gray, Maine, and, with her, had 12 children.

In 1790, he was living in North Yarmouth and in 1808 was elected a Captain in the 6th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia.

Capt. Andrew laid out the county road from Falmouth to Portland, and was a prosperous lumber trader, dealing in ship's timber.

In 1800, he built and operated the Leighton Tavern on the Gray Road in West Cumberland, which was the stage route from Falmouth to Bakertown (now Lewiston).

Leighton Tavern, Cumberland, ca. 1921

Captain Leighton died in North Yarmouth on June 16, 1830.

In 1971, the tavern was moved to Schooner Rocks, in Cumberland Foreside and restored.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Matrilineal Monday - Bertie McCain Smith

My maternal great-grandmother, Bertha A. McCain

Bertha A. "Bertie" McCain was born on January 10, 1882, in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada, the fifth of five children of John McCain (1835-1896) and Harriet A. Harnett (1839-1905).

Bertie, her mother Harriet, and her sister Bess

The 21 year old Bertie, on January 24, 1903, married Wylie Herbert Smith (1874-1952), a 28 year old young man from Elgin, New Brunswick, a 1901 graduate of Acadia Divinity College, and soon to be Baptist preacher. Their first child, a daughter, Evelyn Augusta (1904-1978) was born a year later.

In 1905, she and her young family moved to Maine, settling first in Portland, where their second child was born a year later, a daughter Harriet Cheney (1906-1985), later to Norridgewock, in Somerset County, and then back to Portland.

Bertie died at her home on February 24, 1930. One daughter was married and the other, my grandmother, delayed her planned wedding until later that year, allowing for a proper mourning period.

She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, in Portland, Maine, alongside her husband.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

George's Purple Heart


George Dalton Libby's Purple Heart

George was posthumously awarded many medals for his bravery in the early days of the Korean War.  You can read more about him here and elsewhere.  He is my first cousin 1x removed.  I helped his immediate family replace his medals after they were lost.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Blogoversary Thank You Card

Digging Down East began two years ago on this date, as a tribute to my father, who had just passed away in April. My first and early posts were an experiment in recalling stories he told, as we tramped through Bridgton cemeteries, and my own recollections from childhood, as I had sat spellbound at the foot of my elders. Call it eldest-child-syndrome, but I nonetheless loved every minute.

My first genealogy blog role models were Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy fame, Bill West of West in New England, and Midge Frazel of Granite In My Blood.  It didn't hurt that they were all from New England either.

That first year was a meandering, floundering one, as I tried to grapple with the wealth of information on my mother's side of the family (all hardy Maritime Canadian stock, and wonderful picture-takers to boot), and the dearth of information of my father's side, coupled with family secrets and a stubborn unwillingness to talk about the past.  As I look back at some of those posts, I have to think they were weak efforts at best.

This second year, however, I felt energized and inspired, and it is with deep gratitude to the greater genealogy community in general and special individual genealogists and family historians, in particular, that I celebrate this second blogoversary.

A Special Thank You to Heather Rojo, Barbara Poole, Russ Worthington, Bill West, Elizabeth Pyle Handler, Shari Strahan, Diane Boumenot, Sara Campbell, Lucie LeBlanc Consentino, Midge Frazel, Liesa Healy-Miller, Marian Pierre-Louis, Michelle Robillard and all the other New England Geneabloggers.That inaugural Bash at Heather and Vincent's marked the beginning of my serious journey.

Doing New England genealogy from the shores of the Ohio presents its own special challenges. As a result, I am always following Facebook and Twitter friends to keep up with genealogy events and programs pertinent to my regional needs. Thank you to all those I have never met face to face but who inspire me with their organizational skills and their tech advice.

I was so excited when NGS came to Cincinnati this year. From the pre-Conference blogger dinner to the closing sessions, I met and got to know so many wonderful genealogy friends.  The knowledge gained and the friendships forged have become invaluable to me in my quest to document my family history. Thank you to all my followers in the genealogy Twitter-verse for your expertise and for your wonderful humor along the way.

I've just returned from my annual Maine vacation/genealogy research trip. With my trustworthy Research Assistant (my 80-year old Mom) to accompany me, I was able to solve another batch of family mysteries and puzzles.  Look for more hopefully illuminating and entertaining posts gleaned from my favorite lifetime endeavor,"digging down east."

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Boyfriend ~ Amanuensis Monday

In February of 1930, my maternal grandmother, Harriet Cheney Smith (1906-1985) lost her mother. She had met her future husband, S. Ross Bustin, and was planning to be married. The couple decided to delay their nuptials until later that year. 

In the meantime, she received the letter of sympathy from an old boyfriend, a young man from Fryeburg, Maine, Gerry Cousins, for whom, in the early 1920's, she obviously had great affection. He wrote:

                                                                                          Lisbon Falls, Maine
                    Dear Friend Harriet:
                          Had a letter from my Mother and she told me of your great
                    loss that came the first of the week into your life, it is certainly
                    one of the greatest of them all, and I certainly trust you will
                    bear up and understand that it must be for the best, and leave
                    it all to the judgment of one who rules the universe of ours.
                    I plan on being at home for over this week end, and will
                    most certainly give you a call, and please give me the 
                    opportunity of being on your list of a friend at any time.


The following pictures from my grandmother's scrapbook are from the heyday of Harriet and Gerry's young romance.

Gerri sporting his Fryeburg Academy Letter Sweater!


Gerri, Harriet, and friend Dottie
Waiting for the train in West Falmouth

"My Darling"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Enoch's Grave ~ Sunday's Obituary

It all began innocently enough. Another grave to find, in another small Maine town. The Falmouth Historical Society proving not only to be the most difficult to locate, but the least helpful of those I visited during this trip, I stopped in at the Falmouth Memorial Library.

Having been a town librarian myself, I have a great love and respect for these enclaves of local lore, and Falmouth did not disappoint. There I found a copy of  Death notices from Town of Cumberland, Maine, Annual Reports 1891-1960, wherein I found the listing for my ancestor:

Leighton, Enoch M.   Apr 4, 1926  Falmouth   8o Ys. 6 Ms 18 ds. 

It was off to the Town Office!

The extremely helpful staff there retrieved the 1926 Ledger from the safe upstairs, and there he was:

But, alas, no record of where he was buried.

So, it was back into the Portland Public Library to check the April 4-6, 1926 Press Herald on microfilm for a death notice or an obituary. BINGO!

Portland Press Herald, April 6, 1926, Page Three, col.1

After a brief visit to the Maine Historical Society, it was back in the car to head to Cumberland Center. Having tramped through 3 Falmouth cemeteries last summer, and feeling confident I had not found him there, I walked through the cemetery right where the Tuttle and  Blanchard Roads meet, but to no avail. The graves in there were way too old.  Next it was Moss Side, pictured above, where I again came up empty.  

Then I re-read the death notice from the Press Herald.

Funeral services were at the Universalist Church, Cumberland Center, with interment at Cumberland Center. Could they be referring to the Cemetery, one I referred to as the Universalist Church Cemetery, that I had explored last summer on the Gray Road, where, as it turns out, Enoch' parents are buried?

I never found a headstone in that Universalist Cemetery for Enoch, my Great Great Leighton Grandfather. He may be there with no marker, my hunch about the cemetery could be wrong, or there may be another explanation. But this is not the end of the search!