Monday, January 30, 2012

Digging Under My Brick Wall (Part 1) - Olive Seavey and Sylvanus Stetson

Olive was the daughter of Jonathan Seavey (my 2nd Great Grandfather) and Mary Blake, his first wife.* I am a descendant of Jonathan and his second wife.

In an effort to wedge my way under the brick wall of Jonathan Seavey's parentage, I have been researching his offspring. I have come up with interesting connections and fascinating historical tie-ins.

Olive (1834-1903) was one of the four daughters of Jonathan Seavey and Mary Blake.  She was born in Bridgton, Maine.

Olive married Sylvanus C. Stetson (1829-1899) on November 7,1860 in Lewiston, Maine.**

Ten years earlier, according to the 1850 U.S. Census, the 21 year old Sylvanus was living, with his older brother Bradford, on the south fork of the American River in El Dorado County, California as a gold miner. They would have traveled to California by way of a clipper ship, via the Isthmus of Panama, a voyage taking upwards of 100 days.***

The discovery of gold in El Dorado County along the American in 1848 was the widely publicized event that precipitated the fabulous gold rush to California in 1849. Soon thousands of gold seekers swarmed over the county, and in the 1850's it was one of the most populous areas in the State. (The 1850 U.S. Census was a disaster in California. It was disorganized and many of the records were lost, requiring California to mandate a state census in 1852 to try to gauge the massive increase in population due to the Gold Rush.)

He may have brought back enough riches from California to establish himself as a well-off citizen. Three years after marrying Olive Seavey, in 1863, he was drafted, but was one of many men with means who paid a commutation fee of $300 to avoid combat.****

By the time of the 1870 Census, Olive, Sylvanus, and a daughter Jennie, were living in North Bridgewater, Mass., and his occupation was "Dealer in fish," or fishmonger. In the 1880 Census, they had returned to Maine, to Bowdoin in Sagadahoc County.

Sylvanus C. Stetson died in Monmouth, Maine, in 1899, aged 70. His widow, Olive, returned to Massachusetts, perhaps living with her sister and brother-in-law, Anna (Seavey) and Harlan Roscoe Mason, who were living in Brockton.

Olive Seavey Stetson died in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1903, aged 68.

They are buried together in Monmouth, Maine.

*   For a timeline of Jonathan's two marriages and his children, see my previous post.
**  Intentions of marriage and marriage records, 1837-1878, Lewiston, Androscoggin County, Maine Vital Records (copy from microfilm viewed at Cincinnati Ohio East Family History Center, Montgomery, Ohio, February, 18, 2012).   
*** For more on the Maine clipper ship industry, see the Penobscot Marine Museum website.
**** History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men. Philadelphia, 1884. p. 642. The $300 commutation fee was an enormous sum of money for most city laborers or rural farmers. With these draft laws, the Civil War truly began to be known as a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Talented Tuesday - Pastry Chef Flora Parsons

Aunt Flora (third from left) with Ruth Bustin and Harriet Bustin, on the occasion of Melvina Bustin's 80th Birthday in 1966.

Flora Elizabeth Parsons (1911-1997) graduated from Portland High School in 1930
 (left column, 4th row)

Following graduation, she went to Boston, and graduated from the Fannie Farmer Cooking School in 1931.

It wasn't long until she was hired by the Atlantic House, at Scarborough Beach, Maine. And, for several years before she married Lawrence Albert Bustin in 1935, she was the Head Pastry Chef at that historic resort.*

*Obituary, Flora E. Bustin, Maine Sunday Telegram, February 9, 1997, p.11B

Monday, January 9, 2012

Maritime Monday - The Titanic of New England

On November 26, 1898, the steamship Portland left Boston on a regular run to Portland.  She sank in the famous "Portland Gale," a fierce blizzard off the New England coast, taking with her 176 passengers and crew, including my Leighton ancestor, Diana Gilbert Leighton (1829-1898). 

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Above caption reads: This was probably the last picture made of the steamship, Portland, which sank Nov. 27, 1898, with all hands. Les Jones wasn't around at the time, but while covering the busy waterfront he was allowed to copy this rare photograph.  The photograph is not reversed - the name over the sidewheels is correct, but the ensign has letters sewn on one side only.

The Boston Herald, of course, covered the disaster thoroughly, and published lists of victims, like the one on December 2nd, where Diana Leighton's name appears.

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Diana Gilbert, wife of  my 1st Cousin 4x Removed, Enos Leighton.
West Cumberland United Methodist Cemetery, West Cumberland, Maine

If you are as fascinated by storms and shipwreck stories as I am, I know you would enjoy the following:

Four Short Blasts: The Great Gale of 1898 and the Loss of the Steamer Portland, by Peter Dow Batchelder and Mason Philip Smith, 1998, and the following websites: