William Riley French.

A history of Turner, Maine, from its settlement to 1886 online

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tents and purposes as satisfactory as if performed within the
Term prescribed by the aforesaid Resolve of June i8th, 1768,
said Resolve to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sent up for concurrence.

John Hancock, Speaker.
John Avery, Dep. Sec.

In Council, September 14th, 1779,
Read and concurred.

Consented to by the major")
part of the Council. j

True copy. Attest : John Avery, Dep. Sec.

Dr. Howe says: —

These measures put the affairs of the plantation on sound
footing again, and most of those who had been diverted
from the enterprise, by entering into the military service, had
now returned to Sylvester, and a number more of families had
moved into the place, and several additional young men had
taken up settling lots. I will therefore endeavor to furnish a
detailed account of all the families and individual settlers in the
plantation on the first of January, 1780. Up to this time there
had occurred no death in the township, nor am I aware of more
than one death which occurred in the military service among the
settlers of Sylvester. Andrew Bass, of Halifax, who had taken
up a settler's lot, went into the army and fell at Stillwater, at
the capture of General Burgoyne and the army under his com-



Inhabitants of Sylvester Canada in 1780: Jotham Briggs,
wife and four children ; Israel Haskell, wife and seven children ;
Daniel Briggs, wife and five children ; Abner Phillips, wife and
one child ; Daniel Staples and wife ; Josiah Staples, wife and
one child ; Benjamin Merrill ; Moses Stephens, wife and five
children ; Joseph Leavitt, wife and one child ; Jacob Leavitt,
wife and seven children ; Charles Turner, Jun. and William
Turner, 2d; Seth Staples, wife and one child; John Keen, wife
and nine children ; Daniel Merrill, wife and three children ;
Benjamin True, wife and four children ; Richard Phillips, wife
and two children ; Malachi Waterman ; Jabez Merrill, wife and
two children ; Levi Merrill, wife and one child ; Ezekiel Brad-
ford, Jun. ; Hezekiah Hill ; Isaac Phillips and wife ; Stephen
Bryant, wife, five children and mother ; William Hayford, wife
and nine children ; Samuel Andrews; William Bradford, wife
and two children ; Jesse Bradford ; Hezekiah Bryant, wife and
six children ; James Crooker and Ebenezer, his brother ; Sam-
uel Blake, wife and five children ; Mark Andrews ; Henry Jones,
wife and one child. Total population in 1780, one hundred and

The number of inhabitants in Sylvester Canada in 1780, and

the order of time in which they moved into the plantation or

formed into families, were as follows : —

Benjamin Merrill,
Ciiarles Turner Jr.,
William Turner 2d,
Hezekiah Hill,
Samuel Andrews,
Mark Andrews,
Jesse Bradford,
James Crooker,
Ebenezer Crooker,
Benjamin Jones,
Levi Merrill,
Ezekiel Bradford Jr.

There were twelve of
these, making the whole
population at the begin-
ning of this year, 131.


Israel Haskell, 9

Moses Stephens, 7

Hezekiah Bryant, 8


Jabez Merrill, 4

Abner Philips, 3

Joseph Leavitt, 3

Richard Philips, Jun., 4

William Bradford, 4

Samuel Blake, 7

John Keen, li

Josiah Staples, 3

Daniel Briggs, 7


Stephen Bryant, 8
Dea. Daniel Merrill, 5

Seth Staples, 3

Daniel Staples, 2

Jacob Leavitt, 9
William Hayford, 11

Jotham Briggs, 6

Henry Jones, 3

Isaac Philips, 2

Total, 119

There were also at
that time, not formed
into families, the follow-


Dr. Howe had opportunities for making a correct
list of the early inhabitants of Sylvester which none
now enjoy, and he improved them faithfully, yet he
does not feel certain that his list is free from error.
He adds the following interesting statements : —

Of these settlers, Jesse Bradford, Levi Merrill, Richard Phil-
ips, Abner Philips, John Keen, and his oldest son John, Mark
Andrews, Samuel Blake and Joseph Leavitt, had all performed
service in the army of the revolution, but had now returned to
the plantation.

I will now give a more detailed account of some of the fami-
lies contained in this enumeration.

John Keen came from Taunton in 1777, where he had mar-
ried Jerusha Blake. Their children and their marriage connec-
tions were as follows : Keziah, who married Mesheck Keen, of
Butterfield, now Sumner ; John, who married Priscilla Robert-
son ; Jerusha, who married Elijah Fisher, December 4, 1785;
Elisha, who married Anna Briggs, November 26, 1790; Mary
B., who married John Munroe, January 13, 1793 ; Grinfill, who
married Molly Rose, of Dighton, Mass. ; Mercy, who married
Bradford Rose, June 8, 1800 ; Rebecca, who married Elisha
Pratt, April i, 1799; Edward, who married Hannah Kingsley,
December 21, 1800; and Priscilla, who married Gushing Phil-
ips, April s, 1805.

William Hayford removed into Sylvester the same year, and
his children were, William, who married Phinela French, Novem-
ber 24th, 1785 ; Betty, who married Benjamin Alden, November
24th, 1785; Artamis, who married Joel Simmons; Arvida, who
married Mary Ellis, March 14th, 1796; Matilda, who married
Abiathar Briggs, December ist, 1789; Gustavius, who married
Abigail Fuller, August 13th, 1797; Zeri, who married Sally
Ghickering; Gad, who married Sally Bisbee; and Albert, who
married Deborah Bonney.


Jacob Leavitt had married Sylvia Bonney, and their children
were, Joseph, who married Anna Stephens, July i8th, 1776;
Sylvia, who married Levi Merrill ; Tabatha, who married Benja-
min Jones ; Isaiah, who married Lydia Ludden, September 7th,
1797; Jacob, who married Rhoda Thayer, January ist, 1788;
Cyrus, who married Sarah Pratt ; Sarah, who married Jeremiah
Dillingham, April 29th, 1787 ; and Isaac, who married Ruth
Perry in 1797.

Daniel Briggs removed from Taunton in 1777, where he had
married Silence Hart. Their children were, Daniel, who mar-
ried Elizabeth Bradford, February 4th, 1788; Silence, who
married Jairus Philips, December 15th, 1785 ; Abiathar, who
married Matilda Hayford, December ist, 1789 ; Arunah, who
married Lydia Godfrey in 1793 ; Anna, who married Elisha
Keen, November 26th, 1790; Betsy, who married Caleb Blake,
July nth, 1793; Hart, who married Betsy Records in 1800;
John, who married Jennet Munroe, March 28th, 1802 ; and
Lydia, who married Briggs Curtis, March 31st, 1799.

Stephen Bryant removed from Halifax, where he had married
Rebecca Bass, and brought his widowed mother with him, who
died January 30th, 1802, at the age of ninety-one years. Their
children were, Saba, who married Cornelius Jones, April 3d,
1788 ; Hannah, who married Job Prince, June 23d, 1791 ; Bath-
sheba, who married Gideon Southard, May 5th, 1806 ; Rebecca,
who married Daniel Niles, May 14th, 1797 ; Abia, who married
Jonas Mason, March 17th, 1799; Polly, who married Michael
Stephens, October 14th, 1805 ; Lucy, who married Josiah
Holmes, June 12th, 1803 ; Asenath, who married Ichabod
Leavitt, April loth, 1808. Mr. Bryant had also two other chil-
dren, Thomas and Lydia, who died young.

We find that in 1780 there were in the town
twenty-five famihes, and twelve young men, unmar-
ried, who had taken up lots with the intention of


becoming permanent residents. But no meeting-
house had been built, and no minister had been
settled, though the proprietors had done what they
could to accomplish this result. The settlement
had now become so large, and the prospects of its
increasing so encouraging, that the means of relig-
ious worship and instruction had become a necessity
to the moral welfare of the community. Besides,
the proprietors were under obligation to secure the
establishment of religious worship for the benefit
of the families they should induce to settle on their
lands. No meetings of the proprietors were held
in 1780, but in December of the following year
they passed this vote: —

That the Clerk be desired to write to the settlers relative to
their taxation, present and in future, building a meeting house,
settling a minister, &c ; and to signify to them the desire of the
Proprietors, that they choose a Committee of settlers, and
properly and fully empower it to settle and determine with the
Proprietors relative thereto, and that this committee attend at
the adjournment of this meeting, and also to signify to the
settlers the readiness and willingness of the Proprietors to do
anything in their power to promote the further settlement of the
town, and the welfare and prosperity of the present settlers.

But passing votes, though done vigorously and

earnestly, does not always secure the object desired;

so now, votes passed in Massachusetts did not build

a meeting-house in Sylvester, and more efficient



action must be taken. Hence, in March, 1782, the

Voted, That Capt. Ichabod Bonney be a committee to repair
to Sylvester Town and to erect a Meeting-house, thirty-five feet
square, and twenty feet posts, to finish the outside by covering
it with shingle and clapboard, set twenty-five window frames,
glaze six windows of twenty-four squares each, seven by nine,
and lay the lower floor, to complete the above mentioned work
as soon as may be, and in the most frugal manner.

Voted, That Capt. Ichabod Bonney be, and he hereby is,
authorized by the Propriety, to offer the settlers of Sylvester
Town a sum not exceeding sixty pounds towards erecting a
Meeting-house, provided they, the settlers, will obligate them-
selves to build a Meeting-house not less than thirty-five feet
square, to be completed agreeable to the preceding vote, by the
last day of September next, and to take security for performing
the same ; and if the settlers shall agree and oblige themselves
to build a Meeting-house as above mentioned, then the said
Capt. Bonney is to desist building an house as in the preceding
vote. And in case the settlers shall agree with Capt. Bonney
as aforesaid, and shall complete said Meeting-house as afore-
said, then said house shall be the sole property of those settlers
undertaking the business.

Voted, that Capt. Ichabod Bonney be, and he is hereby,
authorized and directed to set the Meeting-house as near the
centre of the Parish, upon a road, as best to commode the Pro-
prietors and settlers.

At a meeting of the proprietors on August 12th,
1782, they made a still more generous offer, as the
following vote will show: —


That the vote of the 4th of March last, instructing Capt.
Ichabod Bonney to offer the settlers of Sylvester Town two
hundred Dollars for them to build a Meeting-house within a
limited time, be and hereby is so far reconsidered that he shall
have full power to give the settlers any sum he shall think
proper, and to allow the undertaker or undertakers such further
sum as he shall judge necessary for compleating said house as
directed in said vote.

This action of the proprietors effected the object
in view, as will appear by the report of their com-
mittee. Captain Ichabod Bonney, at a meeting held
on the nth day of November following. Your
committee reports: —

That he has agreed with the settlers for building said Meet-
ing-house, for seventy-eight Pounds, to be paid in the several
materials he had before provided, and the remainder in cash,
and has taken security for the performance of the contract in
a Bond signed by Samuel Blake, Henry Jones, John Ket n,
Nathan Niles, William Bradford, Joseph Leavitt, Benjamin
Jones and Jabez Merrill, who are over and above to have the
property of the ground room and other parts of said Meeting-
house, as expressed in said Bond, which I lodge with the Clerk,
to be delivered to the Treasurer who may be chosen in the
room of Mr. Charles Turner, deceased, to be prosecuted by him
or his successor for any default in the performance of the con-
ditions expressed in said bond. Ichabod Bonney Jun.

Charles Turner, Esq., was then chosen treasurer
and collector in place of his father, Charles Turner,

The proprietors were very earnest in their pur-
pose to have a minister settled in the plantation as


soon as possible, and they felt compelled to take
action in the matter at once, as the settlers seem
not to have made energetic efforts to provide for
themselves the privileges of public worship and
religious instruction. Hence, on December 9th,
1782, it was voted: —

That Charles Turner, Esqr, General Wadsworth, and Capt.
Ichabod Bonney, or any two of them, be a Committee to settle
a minister in Sylvester Town agreeable to the Constitution,
Resolves of the General Court and Votes of this Propriety
heretofore passed, and make report of their doings to the Pro-
priety as soon as possible.

It was contemplated and expected at one time
that the Rev. Charles Turner would be settled in
Sylvester, but for some reason, which is not appar-
ent, he did not become the first minister in town.
There are some indications that the settlers did
not choose to invite him; but whether he was not
agreeable to them, or whether they did not wish
to assume the burden of his support, cannot now
be determined. On September 28th, 1784, the pro-
prietors chose a committee "to inquire into the
qualifications of Mr. John Strickland as a Gospel
Minister, and to report to the Propriety as soon as

On the 29th of March, 1785, the proprietors
" voted a further tax of thirty shillings on each
original right for the purpose of paying Rev. Mr.


Strickland's salary." The funds for the support of
public worship were not raised by subscription, but
by vote of the town. Money was appropriated for
this purpose the same as for any other for which
money was raised, and the parish was the whole
town. The settlers in Sylvester, at a meeting held
August 1 2th, 1784, voted a call to Mr. Strickland
" to settle in the work of the ministry," and to
pay him fifty pounds lawful money for his annual
salary, so long as he shall be the minister of the
town, and they adopted "a plan of church govern-
ment according to a paper read at said meeting."
They also chose Captain Ichabod Bonney, Dr.
Daniel Child, and Stephen Bryant a committee to
extend the call of the parish to Rev. Mr. Strick-
land, and to acquaint the proprietors of the town-
ship with their action in regard to this matter;
they also approved and adopted as their own, the
vote of the church and congregation, as follows:
" In consideration of the great importance of having
the stated means of grace settled in this place, and
having heard the Rev. John Strickland, a member
of Salem Presbytery some time, and being satisfied
with his principles in doctrine and discipline, his
ministerial gifts, and moral character, do make
choice of him, the said John Strickland, as our
minister, and do appoint Messrs. Richard Phillips,
John Keen, and Benjamin True to attend the Pres-


bytery at their next session in the town of Gray, to
solicit this our call before the Presbytery, the same
having been unanimously voted at a meeting held
for that purpose, on the 12th of the present month,

The town also voted that Mr. Strickland be
allowed a reasonable time to visit his friends to
the westward, annually, and that he should have
" the common land five years, rent free." As a
vote passed by the settlers in a plantation was not
considered legal, a number of men gave Mr. Strick-
land a bond for fifty pounds for his salary, which
bond was to become null and void when the town
should be incorporated, and a vote should be passed
to pay him that amount. From a journal kept
by Mr. Elijah Fisher, who came into Sylvester in
1783, we learn that Mr. Strickland was installed
pastor of the town, September 20th, 1784. He
continued in the ministry here a number of years,
and was doubtless successful in his work. He
raised up a large family, and some of his grandchil-
dren remain in the vicinity, or have, until recently,
of whom Major Isaac Strickland is one.

Sylvester-Canada, after a long struggle with
many difficulties, had now become a prosperous
settlement in which the means of comfort were
possessed in abundance. Roads had been built,
mills had been provided for sawing boards, and


grinding corn and grain, a meeting-house had been
erected, a learned Protestant minister settled, and
public worship established. But the people suf-
fered from the depreciation of Continental money,
and were often embarrassed in their business trans-
actions. The state of the proprietor's treasury,
February 4th, 1782, will show how serious a trouble
this was: —

There remains of the ^10 tax uncollected, ;!^2i3-
14-11^, which if collected at 11 for one, will be
in gold and silver £ 21-1-4^

There remains of the sale of lands, Nov. 15, 1779,
;^200-8-3, which if collected at 24 for i, will be
in gold and silver 8-7-0

Paper, ^432-3-2^, advanced to Aaron Hinckley,

Esqr, in gold and silver 1 0-18-0

Balance in the hands of the Treasurer in silver. . . 13-13-8^

There also remains ;^2,7g2 3^ Continental, old emis-
sion dollars in the Treasury.

i^5 4-0-9^

This shows the great depreciation of paper
money from which the people suffered. The "old
emission," it seems, was valueless. There were
inconveniences suffered by the settlers living in a
plantation, and they now desired that the town
might be incorporated, so that any action they
might take, or votes they might pass, might be
legal and valid. And, in 1786, they notified the
proprietors of their wish to become incorporated


into a town, and the proprietors, at their meeting
on the 25th of April of that year, voted, "That no
objection be made to the proposed incorporation of
the township." Dr. Howe says: —

There was still some difficulty in the selection of a name for
the new town. The settlers cherished with warm affection the
name of Sylvester, as embracing some of the most tender and
sacred associations of their minds ; but the proprietors felt a
strong predilection for the name of Turner, from the considera-
tion that Charles Turner, Esq., of Scituate, had been one of
their prominent members, and had served their corporation
from the period of its organization to that of his death, with
great ability and fidelity, as their Treasurer ; and also in con-
sideration of the valuable services of Major William Turner,
who had been their standing Clerk during the whole period, and
had been very active in lotting out, and pushing forward the
settlement of the plantation, and whose civil and military ser-
vices to the commonwealth and nation had justly acquired an
enviable reputation.

But on presenting the two names to the General Court, that
body decided at once, from the great respect which it held for
the character and services of the Rev. Charles Turner, who had
for many years stood in the front rank of its Senate, as a bea-
con light, to direct its counsels through the gloomy and por-
tentous struggle of the Revolution, that the name should be
Turner. And, accordingly, on the 7th day of July, 1786, passed
the following act of incorporation : —

An act to incorporate the Plantation called Sylvester, into a
Town by the name of Turner.

Whereas it appears to this Court that it would be productive
of the public good, and for the benefit of the inhabitants and
proprietors of the said Plantation, that the same should be
incorporated into a Town : —


Section i. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Rep-
resentatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority
of the same, That the Plantation called Sylvester, and included
within the boundaries described by this Act, together with the
inhabitants thereof, be, and they hereby are, incorporated into
a Town by the name of Turner, [ Here follow the boundaries
contained in the original grant to the Proprietors.] And the
said Town is hereby vested with all the powers, rights and
immunities which Towns within this Commonwealth are entitled
to, or by law do enjoy.

Section 2. And be it further enacted by the authority afore-
said. That Isaac Parsons, Esqr, of New Gloucester, be, and he
hereby is, empowered to issue his warrant to some principal
inhabitant of said Town, requiring him to warn the inhabitants
thereof to meet at such time and place, as he shall therein set
forth, to choose all such officers as towns are required by law to
choose in the month of March or April annually.

Dr. Howe has favored us with interesting sketches
of the early settlers of the town, and this seems to
be a proper place to introduce them. As nearly all
the people who were acquainted with the early set-
tlers have passed away, it is impossible to gather
the information which was obtainable a generation
ago, and we may well be thankful that this work of
rescuing from oblivion these sketches of the pio-
neer settlers of the town was undertaken by one so
well qualified for the task.

Colonel William Turner was the younger brother
of the Rev. Charles Turner, and graduated at Har-
vard College in 1767. After the completion of his
education, he spent a number of years in school-


teaching, and gained a high reputation as a teacher
of youth. At the commencement of the Revolu-
tionary War he raised a company of rangers, and
marched to Cambridge as their captain. In open-
ing the effective batteries upon Dorchester Point,
which drove the British forces with precipitation
from the town of Boston, the critical and hazard-
ous duty of advance guard was assigned to Cap-
tain Turner, with his Scituate Rangers ; and it
was executed with such daring intrepidity as to
attract the favorable notice of the commander-in-
chief. After the relief of Boston, Captain Turner
marched his company with the main army to New
York, where he was, not long afterward, selected by
General Washington as one of his aids, with the
rank of major. This was a situation for which,
both by education, and natural gifts. Major Turner
was eminently qualified, and in which he remained
during the war, serving successively under Wash-
ington, Lee, Greene, Lincoln, and Knox. The
facility with which he transcribed general orders,
and the dexterity with which he transmitted them,
rendered his services in the highest degree useful
to the commanding general.

He served some part of the time in every cam-
paign during the war; but when the active opera-
tions of the season were over, and the army retired
into winter quarters, he generally returned to his


family, and engaged in some more active employ-
ment than that of performing the mere formalities
of camp service. But when the spring opened,
and the army again took the field. Major Turner
promptly repaired to the post of duty. When he
left the army in 1777, General Lee presented him
with a valuable war-horse, in recognition of his
valuable services. That winter he held a seat in
the General Court of Massachusetts as representa-
tive from the town of Scituate. From this date to
1779, nearly his whole time was employed in the
military service, but the greater part of the latter
year was devoted to civil duties. That year the
State Constitution of Massachusetts was formed,
and Major Turner was a member of the Conven-
tion that framed it. He was also the same year a
representative to the General Court of Massachu-
setts, and a member of a Congress of Delegates,
holden at Concord, to consider the subject of paper
currency, and to devise some means of removing or
mitigating the evil of its depreciation. After this
year he was generally with the army until the close
of the war, when he returned to Scituate, and was
once more elected member of the General Court.

In 1 801 he removed his family to Turner, but
his health had now become too much impaired to
permit him to take an active part in the duties of
life, either public or private. He died at the age


of sixty-one, leaving a widow, and several children.
His remains were deposited in the village burying-
ground, and at the head of his grave a tablet has
been erected by his daughter, Mrs. Oriens Hum-
phrey, of Boston. His children, with their marriage
connections, were, William, who married Betsey
Smith; Betty, who married Joseph Tilden; Xoa,
who died December 12th, 181 5; Charles Lee, who
married Cascarilla Child; Stephen, who married
Nabby Cooper, and fell in a sanguinary conflict on
the Canadian frontier in 18 14; Eunice, who mar-
ried Martin Burr; Fanny, who married William

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Online LibraryWilliam Riley FrenchA history of Turner, Maine, from its settlement to 1886 → online text (page 3 of 20)