Maine Genealogical Society (1884- ).

The Probate records of Lincoln County, Maine,.1760 to 1800 online

. (page 1 of 42)
Online LibraryMaine Genealogical Society (1884- )The Probate records of Lincoln County, Maine,.1760 to 1800 → online text (page 1 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



kOBIikmhiv*'::^^^: /'^hV I


BooRl L 7 /^^












1760 TO 1800,












S I 3 f35

E7)!crscit, Printer, Wiscassct.


Preface - - - - Pages 5 — 11

Introduction - - - - - - " - Pages iii — xxi

Errata - - - - - - - - - Page xxiii

Lincoln Probate Records - - - Pages i — 368

Index of Names - - - Pages i — 48

Index of Places ^ . . . . . Pages 49 — 53


This book contains copies of the wills filed in the Probate Court
for Lincoln County from the year 1760 to the year 1800 and brief
abstracts of the records of the proceedings of that court during the
same period.

Perhaps the earliest existing record of probate proceedings had in
this section of Maine is that found in the record* made

At a court held at Pemaquid 22 July
1674 by Major Tho : clarke Humphry
Dauie : Richd Collicut, and Left Thomas
Gardner according to commission and
order of the Generall Courte of the
Massatusetts coUoHy, Dated in Boston in
N : E : 27 day of May 1674,
which record is in the following words :

Administration to the estate of John Walter a fisherman somtymes
Resident at Monheghen & sometymes at Damerells coue who dyed
about four yeares since is granted to Geo : Burnett Resident at Mon-
heghen who is to dispose of the same according to the cleerest testimony
of, and to whome ye Estate doeth belong & to bring in an Inventory
of the same to ye next comission Court, heere, & himselfe as principall
& Richd Oliver as Suerty doe bind themselves in fifty pounds a
peece that this Order shall bee attended & p' formed.

In this instance the General Court appears to have delegated its
functions as a court of probate, a custom that was subsequently
adopted by the Governor and Council who under the Province charter
of 1 69 1 had power to "doe execute or pcrforme all that is necessary
for the Probate of Wills, Granting of Administracons for, touching or
concerning any Interest or Estate which any person or persons shall

♦Printed entire in M. H. .S. coll. '^Baxter MSS.," pp. 343-348.

Note. This was probably the only County Court established under the Massa-
chusetts Colcny charter within the territory subsequently known as Lincoln County.
At that court the region between the Sagadahoc and Georges rivers seems to have
been first called and known as the County of Devon.


have within our said Province or Territory ", Soon, however, after the
charter become operative judges of probate were commissioned, infe-
rior probate tribunals were established and suitable persons were
designated as registers thereof in the several counties ; and in probate
matters the Governor and Council reserved to themselves and exercised
only the powers of a Supreme Court of Probate to which appeals from
the probate courts could be had. Finally, near the close of the
administration of Governor Pownall, in 1760, they became duly organ-
ized as the Supreme Court of Probate for the province and adopted a
seal therefor.

The act of the General Court of the Province of Massachusetts
Bay for erecting and establishing two new counties in the easterly part
of the county of York provided that from and after the first of Novem-
ber, 1760, the most eastern county, bounded on the west by the county
of Cumberland, on the east by the province of Nova Scotia, on the south
and southeast by the sea or western ocean, and on the north by the
utmost northern limits of the province, should be called and known as
the County of Lincoln. This act established the town of Pownalbo-
rough, which then included the territory now embraced in the towns
of Wiscasset, Dresden, Alna and Perkins, as the shire or comity town.
This town had been incorporated on the 13th of February, 1760, and
named in honor of that able colonial statesman, Thomas Pownall, who
was then governor of Massachusetts, and this town, the name of which
was changed to Wiscasset in 1802, has ever since been the principal
shire town of Lincoln County.

The Lincoln Probate Court was constituted by the appointment of
William Gushing as judge and Jonathan Bowman as register. The
earliest act of the court as found in its records granted letters of ad-
ministration upon the estate of Humphry Purrington, late of George-
town, under date of the 14th of November, 1760. The record does
not disclose whether the court upon that occasion was held at George-
town or Pownalborough : the letters were dated at Georgetown ; the
warrant to appraisers at Pownalborough ; both bear the same date.
At that date and for several years afterwards there seems to have been
no regularly established time and place for holding the coart and it
was probably held at either Pownalborough or Georgetown, as was
most for the convenience of parties having business before it, and
but little formality observed. The wills of Nathaniel Donnell and Patrick
Drummond, two old time residents of Georgetown, were probated at


that place. On two or three occasions the court appears to have sat
at Richmond.

WiUiam Gushing, the first judge of the court, was ot a distinguished
Massachusetts family residing at Scituate, where he was born on the
first day of March, 1732, third son of the Hon. John Gushing. He
graduated from Harvard Gollege in 1751 and after studying for a time
with Jeremy Gridley he established himself in the practice of the law.
Upon receiving his appointment as judge of probate he removed to
Pownalborough where, until the arrival of Timothy Langdon, in 1769,
he was the only educated lawyer and as such he appeared as counsel
in the most important cases brought before the common law courts of
the county. If one can judge by documents drawn by him, now extant,
it may safely be concluded that he was methodical in his affairs and
careful in all his undertakings. In the work of transcribing these
records it has been a pleasure to take in hand a will or other instru-
ment in his beautiful handwriting and elegant arrangement of para-
graphs. He filled the office of judge of this court until 1772 when he
was appointed a justice of the Superior Gourt of Judicature. He then
returned to Massachusetts where he ever after made his home. Judge
Gushing continued as a justice of the Superior Gourt until several years
after it came to be known as the Supreme Judicial Gourt, a title which
it retains to this day. At Pownalborough, on the nth of July, 1786,
Gushing, then chief justice, opened the first term of the Supreme
Judicial Gourt that was held in this county. Associate Justices Sar-
gent, Sewall and Sumner presided with him at that term of court.
Upon the establishment of the Supreme Gourt of the United States, in
17S9, Judge Gushing was selected by Washington as chief justice.
Gushing declined the honor, but accepted a seat as associate justice and
continued to occupy the same until his death, 7 September, 1810,
ended a long and honorable career.

The name of Jonathan Bowman is found in the records of this
court for a period of more than forty years : first as register and after-
wards as judge. Born at Dorchester, Massachusetts, 8 December, 1735,
he was graduated from Harvard Gollege in 1755. When the first
officers of this court were selected one William Bryant, whose appoint-
ment appears to have been desired by certain of the proprietors of the
Kennebec Purchase, was a candidate for the office of register and it
seems to have been understood by some of his friends that he would be
appointed, but the influence in favor of Bowman carried the day. At


about the same time the governor of Massachusetts, agreeably to the
act incorporating Lincoln County, appointed a register of deeds for the
county for the term of five years from February, 1761. Bowman re-
ceived that appointment. Upon the organization of the Inferior
Court of Common Pleas and the Court of General Sessions of the Peace
a few months later he was appointed clerk for those courts and con-
tinued as such for upwards of thirty years and until he relinquished the
offices to his son and successor, Jonathan Bowman, Jr. He appears to
have entered upon the duties of register of probate at the time when
Cushing became judge and he served in that capacity until he succeeded
to the judgeship which position he filled during the Revolutionary
period and under the government of the Commonwealth, having been
recommissioned therein by his relative, Governor Hancock. The first
instrument signed by him as judge found in these records bears date
the tenth of June, 1772. In the Revolutionary days the records of the
court w-ere swollen by proceedings involving the care and disposition
of the confiscated estates of absentee loyalists and at these "tory trials,"
as the hearings were commonly called, Judge Bowman presided. He
continued in the performance of the duties of this responsible position
during the remainder of the period covered by this book and until his
decease, 4 September, 1S04. The comfortable and spacious two-storied
mansion in which Judge Bowman made his home still stands
near the bank of the Kennebec river in Dresden. It is a well-
preserved house having a broad, roomy hall and staircase and in each
of its high-wainscoted rooms a capacious open fire-place. With its
traditions of the Hancocks, of John Adams and Increase Sumner, and
of PJowdoin and the Gardiners it is an interesting relic of the provincial
days in the eastern country and one of the notable houses of the

Roland Cushing, the youngest brother of Judge Cushing and him-
self a lawyer, succeeded Bowman as register of probate. Roland Cush-
ing was born at Scituate, 26 February, 1750, and was educated at
Harvard College which he left in 1768 and entered upon the study of
law with his brother AVilliam at Pownalborough. He held the ofifice of
register of this court for fifteen years. His death occured in 17S8 at
Waldoborough where he was then a resident. The personal recollec-
tions of those who knew him have been preserved and show that en-
dowed by nature with a graceful and manly form, possessing brilliant


mental parts cultivated and enriched by study, eloquent and forceful in
argument, he enjoyed a popularity that was long remembered. His
untimely death and the indulgence of habits that led to it were much
deplored by his friends and associates.

On the 29th of January, 1787, Judge Bowman designated Nathan-
iel Thwing, of \Vool\vich, as register of the court pro tempo7-e. Thwing's
home was at Hutchinson's Point, now known as Thwing's Point, on the
bank of the Kennebec and a few miles from the residence of Judo-e
Bowman. Thwing was long time an upright magistrate and well-known
office-holder in this county. He was an admirable recording officer
and the records made by him are unequalled for legibility, neatness
and precision. He appears to have discharged the duties of register of
this court until 1792, a period of about five years. Portions of the
second and third volumes, the whole of the fourth volume and the first
fifty-eight folios of the fifth volume are in his handwriting. A portion
of the records in volume HI are attested by Thomas Tileston, register
pro tempore, of whom nothing further is here known at this time.

The next regularly appointed register of the court after Roland
Gushing was Jonathan Bowman, Jr., eldest son of Judge Bowman. At
the date of his appointment, young Bowman was barely twenty-one
years of age. He was born 17 April, 1771, and was graduated at
Harvard College in 179 1. He made records that are models of neat-
ness and legibility. He held the office of register of probate for about
ten years, and during a part of that time he was clerk of the common
law courts for the county. He resided for some years at \Mscasset.
His death occurred at the early age of thirty-seven years.

These short personal sketches may serve to revive in some deo-ree
the personnel of the court for the first forty years of its existence. The
careful student of these records will not overlook their importance but
will find in them that which will suggest pictures of the economical and
social life of this section of Maine during the last half of the eio-hteenth
century in a manner that no other records now extant can revive. In
them will be found evidences of the religious beliefs of the last century
inhabitants of this anciently settled county, testimony of their patriotism
traces of their loves, their hates and their family feuds and strifes • their
standard of comparative wealth and station and their customs and modes
of life. There is not room to particularize within the limits of this brief
note. The pages of this book contain many of those details in which
to use the words of John Adams, posterity delights.


It has been seen that the earliest sittings of this court were at
Pownal borough, Georgetown and Richmond, The records indicate
that the court was most frequendy held at Pownalborough, usually in
the west precinct of the town and at Pownalborough court house which
historic building, erected by the Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase
in accordance with a vote passed by them on the 13th of April, 1761,
for the purpose of providing a suitable place for holding the courts,
still stands within the limits of the former parade ground of old Fort
Shirley in the town of Dresden. It is a substantial frame structure,
three stories high. The court room, situate on the second floor over-
looking the Kennebec, was an apartment forty-five feet long and nine-
teen and a half feet wide. It is rich with memories of John Adams
and the Cushings, the Sewalls and the Sullivans ; of Robert 4uchmuty,
the younger, of Chipman and Wyer, Bradbury and Paine ; and of
Gardiner and Bridge, Lithgow and Langdon. It is not famous alone for
having been the temple of justice. The service of the church of Eng-
land was often held within its walls by the Rev. Jacob Bailey, rector of
the ancient St. John's parish before his church structure was erected;
and there the preachers of other religious denominations from time to
time gathered their hearers.

A few years after the Revolution the population of the county had
increased to such an extent that the inhabitants of the eastern part^
desirous of being no longer subject to the necessity of making the
long and tiresome journey which was involved in attending to probate
business and visiting the registry of deeds at Pownalborough, succeeded
in procuring the passage on the 6th of November, 1784, of "An Act
empowering the Inhabitants of the County of Lincoln Eastward of
Union River to choose a Register of Deeds, and for the establishing of
a Court of Probate to be holden within and for all that part of the said
County which lies to the Eastward of said River." From and after the
date when that act went into effect and until the incorporation of
Hancock and Washington counties this court was known as that of the
"west district" of the county. The establishment of the eastern
district foreshadowed the separation that soon followed. After the area
of the county was reduced and as population multiplied and the
business of the court increased it became customary to hold the
several terms during the year in different towns, usually at the houses of
innholders, when held outside of the shire town. In the year 1790,
the court sat at Pownalborough court house in May, August, September


and October ; at the house of Lazarus Goodwin, in Hallowell, and at
the house of Joseph Lambard, in Bath, in May ; at the house of
Samuel Nickels, in Newcastle, and at the house of Cornelius Turner, in
Waldoborough, in September ; and in the year 1791 : at Pownalborough
court house in January, April, June and August ; at the house of Amos
Pollard, in Hallowell, in January ; at Lambard's, Bath, in June ; at the
house of Charles Samson and at Turner's, both in Waldoborough, in
September, and at the house of Ebenezer Whittier, in Pownalborough,
in December. For many years and until the establishment of the
eastern district the jurisdiction of this court extended throughout all
that part of Maine eastward of the then eastern boundary of Cumber-
land county and in its records are found traces of those who lived as
far east as^Bangor, Mount Desert and Machias and northward to
Farmington and Norridgewock. Its territory was first reduced by the
act creating the eastern district and that was rapidly followed by the
incorporation of Hancock county, in 1789, and Kennebec, in 1799.

It is hoped that the scope of this volume and the arrangement of its
contents will commend it to the student of genealogy. Full copies of
the wills are given in the order in which they are found of record.
The abstracts from the records of proceedings relating to the estates of
intestates are given in like order and contain mention of every act of
the court and of the representatives of the estates found of record, to-
gether with reference to the volumes and folios where such are re-
corded, thus forming in connection with the index of names an index
to the first eight volumes of the probate records of Lincoln County.

The cordial thanks of the Society are hereby extended to that
learned antiquary, Rufus K. Sewall, Esq., for the timely and compre-
hensive sketch of the early history of English common law proceedings
in Maine that is embodied in the introduction, so generously furnished
by him for this book, the value of which is best attested in the following
note here printed by the kind permission of the Hon. John A. Peters,
chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Maine.

Wiscasset, May 6, 1895.

Hon. R. K. Sewall,
Dear Sir:

I have read with exceeding interest the paper which you have pre-
pared as an introduction to the book, to be published, of the Probate
Records of the County of Lincoln (or Cornwall) up to the year inclu-


sive, of 1800. Your paper very finely illustrates, in brief form, the
principles and practice of the Common Law of England, during that
ancient period, to be found in the probate records to be published.
There will be seen in them clear pictures of the civilization of that peri-
od, which an American citizen will readily appreciate and much enjoy.
Very sincerely yours,


The indices to this volume have been prepared by Joseph P.
Thompson, Esq., who has thus rendered invaluable aid.
Wiscasset, i November, 1S95.



These mortuary records of Lincoln County are matter of public in-
terest and importance. In them we have an epitome of the thrift of
the generations past of this ancient part of our state as a culmination
of the English common law, where first applied in the beginnings of
New England, to shape and develop the life forms of society and
Christian civilization in its civil relations.

The record also discloses, in clear and precise features, the religious
and Christian sentiments of the fathers of Lincoln County to have been
eminently biblical in all phases of man's mortuary relations to the preg-
nant future of human life. The facts of this record, in this respect, we
deem quite remarkable.

As an outgrowth of pre-existing legal conditions of the history of
this county, where first was appHed in New England the forces of the
English common law as a colonizing agency, I propose to make the
facts of such application and the incidents ot development a supple-
ment to the legal records herein published ; which had origin in the
charter of April lo, A. D., 1606 ; practically enforced on the peninsu-
la of Sabino, now Sagadahoc, in seizen and possession, under the
English theories of valid land title in A. D. 1607 ; and further devel-
oped at Pemaquid and Sheepscot, when Lincoln County was an inte-
grant part of Ducal Territory to 1689 ; and the organization of Lincoln

COLONIAL CHARTER. April lO, A. D., 1606.

Expansion and application of the English common law as a coloniz-
ing force and antecedents.


The fact of the existence of a continent in the west had been revived
and certified to the nations of Europe by Columbus.

The next year, 1493, the newly discovered lands were partitioned to


Spain and Portugal in virtue of alleged Divine vice-geral domination
in a dotal act of Pope Alexander VI. These facts startled and excited
Europe. The legal soundness of land title so acquired was questioned,
as matter of international law. France wanted to find Adam's will and
see the clause warranting its exclusion to a share of the new world.

England protested : appealed to natural right and justice : declared
there was no good title in land without possession in newly discovered

It was her common law doctrine of "seizen and possession," as ap-
plied to her popular homestead holdings.

The international conflict raised grave questions of right. England
pressed the issue with incisive diplomacy.

The British Lion shook his mane ; and bristling with resentment at the
wrong of Papal presumption, roared, — "preso-iptio sine posscs-
sione, hand valcai" and made preparation to force her common law
postulate of homestead holdings into the international code and have
it applied to trans-atlantic interests in defiance of the Pope's authority
and in derogation of his assumed right in giving away the lands of the
newly discovered world.

The English doctrine was novel. It was also revolutionary. The
conflict deepened. Spain was supreme in prestige and power on sea
and land, and also a petted child of the Church of that day. The
issue of trans-atlantic titles had become national. England was reso-
lute. The issue narrowed. Spain led off, the champion, not only of
her dotal title, but also of Divine vice-geral authority in the Pope.
More than a century* had passed the Papal grant, when the Eng-
lish Parliament declared, that by law of nature and nations, seizen
and possession were sole grounds of good title to newly discovered
lands. In 1580,! this postulate of her common law was officially
declared. The doctrine of possession, as the ground of perfected
right in lands abroad, as well as at home, had become a battle ground
of statesmanship and diplomacy in the legal arena.

CRISIS. A. D. 1588.

The argument was ended. Spain resolved to cut the Gordian knot

with the sword. She marshalled an "Armada," — arrogantly called, "the

invincible", — entered the English Channel, with all the pomp and pride

of a Divine mission, the 19th of July. England gathered her ships of

♦Holmes' Annals, vol. I, p. I.
tPoor's Vindication, p. 9.


war, and massed her guns to meet the issue. Battle was joined the
2 1 St day of July. Drake led the English manoeuvres. Fifteen different*
engagements were fought. The conflict continued to the 27th of July,
and Spain lost five thousand men and seventeen ships of war. Eng-
land burned and sunk, and storms scattered, the Armada of Spain ; and
her naval supremacy went with it ; and England became herself mis-
tress of the sea.

Spain, to crush England in her presumption, had failed and fallen in
the struggle. The Pope's dictum and dotal, heretofore regarded and
respected as the end of all law, went down with the "Great Armada."
The issue gave force and effect to the doctrine of English "seizen and
possession," as a guarantee of title to an American foothold in the
new world.

The ancient doctrine of Papal Divine right, as an element of inter-
national law, was thus over-ruled. Possession now became the ground
of right to valid title in North America.

Thereupon the maritime nations pushed for discovery of eligible
sites for possession and the English common law of seizen and posses-
sion became a great colonizing force.

RESULTS. 1602.

Maritime restlessness in the west of England took shape in a voyage
of discovery, by a new and untried route, to the American shores, di-
rect in course west, as the winds would allow. The vessel was the
"Concord," Bartholomew Gosnold, master. The result was that he
made and touched the new world in a land full of hillocks, an "out-
point of tall grown trees ahead, a rock-bound coast and shores of
white sand in Lat. 40° N."

It was a sunrise view. A Spanish sloop with mast and sail and iron

Online LibraryMaine Genealogical Society (1884- )The Probate records of Lincoln County, Maine,.1760 to 1800 → online text (page 1 of 42)