Showing posts with label Litchfield Maine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Litchfield Maine. Show all posts

Monday, June 6, 2016

Taking Care of Business in Litchfield, Maine

courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society, Litchfield, Maine
     This is the old "town house" for Litchfield where town meetings were held after 1840. Before that time, the meetings were held in the home of a Mr. Nickerson. I know this because I've been trolling the old minutes of town meetings again looking for ancestors. Of course, I found them.
     I expected to find my Smith relatives first as the place was once "Smith Plantation", but to my surprise I found a Richardson ancestor. Abijah Richardson started out as the town constable, but rose rapidly in the town to become the moderator of the town meetings and town treasurer. Here is a sample of the minutes from 1797. Of course Maine was still part of the state of Massachusetts at that point. You will see Abijah's name, but I think you'll also recognize the name of the candidate for governor.
     I kept trolling the records because the custom in those days was to incidentally record town minutes and birth, marriage and death records all together. Pretty soon all the Smith relatives showed up as well in a variety of town offices including a number of years as selectmen. It was the names of some of the town jobs that got me looking further.
Courtesy of Litchfield Historical Society
     Ok, so the surveyors of highways and collector of highway taxes is pretty straightforward. My ancestor Elkanah Baker was elected to that post among others. After that, I had to look around on the internet for some information.
Tything men collected alms for the church, but they also had a variety of other duties as described in the New Hampshire History Blog:
"It was the tithing man's duty to detain and arrest Sabbath travelers, unless they were going to or from church or to visit the sick or do charitable deeds. His job was also to keep the boys from playing in the meeting-house, and to wake up any who might fall asleep during meeting."
They carried something called a church stick with a large knob on one end and feathers on the other. Sleepers would either get a sharp rap with the knob or a tickle, depending on gender.
Surveyors of Lumber made sure that the townspeople were getting their money's worth at the sawmill. They had to be experts in the measurement of lumber and assure that it was good grade.
Fence Viewers inspected new fences and settled disputes over older ones. They also settled disputes where livestock had escaped their enclosure. Since so many of the boundary fences in New England are hand-made fieldstone walls, this was a very important job. Many of those walls stand to this day. Robert Frost was right.
Culler of Staves inspected lumber which was often used for payment of taxes in lieu of cash.
"Great quantities of staves were taken by the town in payment of taxes assessed upon the inhabitants; and these must all pass through the hands of the culler. Persons might, of course, at any time make staves from timber taken from their own land; but timber for this purpose might also be taken from the common, under certain regulations."
Hog Reeves In the very rural South, it was not uncommon to turn loose hogs to forage in the woods and be recollected in the fall. Not so in New England.
"Owners of hogs were responsible for yoking and placing rings in their noses, and if they got loose and became a nuisance in the community, one or more of the men assigned as hog reeve would be responsible for performing the necessary chore for the owner; who could be legally charged a small fee for the service. There were punishments and fines established for not having hogs yoked and failing to control animals."
Field Drivers This was another job involving roaming livestock. A quotation from Massachusetts law describes it best.
"Every field drive shall take up horse, mules, neat cattle, sheep, goats or swine going at large in the public ways, or on common or unimproved land within his town and not under the care of a keeper; and any other inhabitants of the town may take up such cattle or beasts going at large on Sunday, and for taking up such beasts on said day the field driver or such other inhabitants of the town may in tort recover for each beast the same fees which the field driver is entitled to receive for taking up like beasts."
On the page above I can see several of my Smith relatives filling these jobs.
There was also a full page of descriptions of ear notching to identify livestock. It got very creative, but I'll save that for another post.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that this blog passed the three year mark on June 2. Happy Blogiversary
to me!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mappy Monday

MORE SMITHS IN LITCHFIELD, MAINE
Following up on my last post.....
This excerpt from an 1850's map of Kennebec County shows the various landowners of Litchfield and Litchfield Corners.

So this larger view gives you an overview of the county.
I found a lot of Smiths on this map, so I went back to my 1850's census and took a closer look.

Sure enough I found Thomas Smith Junior,  Reuben Lowell's father, with his neighbors Mr. Emerson
and Mr. Hatch. That would be the area in the pinkish circle. Down in the lower left corner is Litchfield Corners where the other Smiths lived and ran a small store. That would be the light blue circle. With a little closer study, I'm sure I can identify a lot more family members.
Check here for some excellent map resources.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lotta May Smith

Lotta May Smith
No download or reproduction without express permission
Isn't this a sweet picture? This is Lotta May Smith, my great grandmother's younger sister.  Lotta lived her adult life with her sister Clara, a schoolteacher, and neither ever married. My mother once included her and Clara in a short story which gives a pretty accurate picture of the aunts she knew as a child.
"Lotta, as tall and erect as her sister Cora, but already quite gray, looked out at the world through large, dark, anxious eyes. They (Lotta and Clara) seemed to live in a perpetual state of apprehension, nursing imagined slights and disappearing into their room or going off on walks to whisper..."

As a child, all I knew was that Lotta had had a promising musical career cut short and that she had to be institutionalized with some mental illness.  My mom's writing reveals the family story or perhaps my mother's version of it, "She had a magnificent singing voice...She was auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera. When Mama died, Lotta made a vow she'd never sing again - and she never has."

The truth is both sad and perhaps a little different. At the turn of the century she was singing with the Orpheus Quartet and shows up regularly in reviews in the Fitchburg Sentinel. By the 1920 census she was living with her sister and her mother in Worcester, Massachusetts and working as a clerk. By 1930 she was a hairdresser. What turned her from her singing career we'll never know, but by 1920 she was already 30 years old. Had signs of mental illness already begun?  She shows up one more time in the 1940 census living with Clara and doing hair, but by the time I was born in the fifties she was in an nursing home or institution.

Lotta's father George F Smith was from Litchfield, Maine. Her mother, Letitia Ellen Johnson, was from Spencer in Owen County, Indiana. It was researching her mother's line that gave me the first clue to Lotta's real story...or at least part of it. The 1860 census reveals this
1860 Census-Spencer, Owen, Indiana













Elizabeth would be Margaret Elizabeth, Lotta's grandmother. The note on the right gave me pause.
Letitia, Lotta's mother, was only 4 years old. Margaret was only 29. A quick email to a family member revealed that early onset Alzheimers ran in that side of the family.  At only 29 she seems pretty young for Alzheimers, but in those days they wouldn't have know what it was anyway.
The 1880 Census shows that by this time the family couldn't manage.
1880 Census- Indiana State Hospital for the Insane

What a terrible choice her husband would have had to make! I did a little online research on the Indiana State Hospital and found it horrifying. Now I understood what probably happened to Aunt Lotta. Luckily, Lotta's care was more benign and her sister Clara was devoted to her for her entire life.

No one goes into genealogy looking for medical ailments, but this story gives information that might be useful to me or to family members.  It also filled out my picture of Aunt Lotta. It's nice to know a little more about the charming young girl in the photo.