Friday, July 31, 2015

The Stevens Family of Portland Maine

The Stevens Family were among the original settlors of Deering, back when it was part of Falmouth.

In fact, part of the Deering area was named "Stevens Plains," for the painted tinware business that was headed up by Zachariah Brackett Stevens (1778-1856), who is widely believed to be the namesake of Stevens Avenue and Stevens Plains, which intersected with Morrill's Corner.

ZACHARIAH BRACKETT STEVENS

EXAMPLE OF TINWARE FROM STEVENS SHOP

Zachariah was the son of Isaac Sawyer Stevens and Sarah (Brackett) Stevens. He was trained as a blacksmith by his father, and later branched out into tinsmithing. He built his shop at Stevens Plains in the early 1800s and sent out peddlers with his tinware and other necessities for the public and also built a general store at the Plains which carried bartered goods for the tinware. Much of his tinware was decorated by Sally Brisco (wife of one of his tin sellers), Sally's nieces (the Francis sisters) and some of his own children and relatives.

Zachariah's sons Alfred and Samuel Butler Stevens, were also tinsmiths who worked in the factory. Samuel took over after his father's death.

Zachariah's brother, Nathaniel (1780-1853) moved into Stroudwater Village, purchasing the Daniel Herrick House at 1 Cobb Avenue.  He and his very tall sons established a smithy in the Village in the early 1800s around the same time his brother was starting his tinsmith shop at Stevens Plains.  Nathaniel's shop only lasted until around 1822.  In the winter of 1861, Nathaniel's nine year old grandson Charlie drowned in Stroudwater River (as so many others did) while walking on thin ice.

Zachariah and Nathaniel's father Isaac (1748-1820) was a Revolutionary War veteran, born to Isaac Sr. (1719-1804) of Andover Massachusetts, an original settlor of old Falmouth.  Before that the Stevens family had been Andover natives going back to Colonial times, with their immigrant ancestor being John Stevens (1605-1662) of Caversham, England, who had arrived in Massachusetts around 1635.


HOME OF ISAAC STEVENS, SR.
built 1767
A grandson to Zachariah, Augustus Ervin Stevens (1825-1882), was Mayor of Portland from 1866-1867, and during the Great Fire.  His mother was Sally Briscoe-Stevens, a grand niece of Paul Revere.  Augustus got his start working in the family grocery business, later branching out into partnership at the grocery called Lynch & Stevens, and from there invested in many other business ventures.  He was reputed to have been a very successful businessperson with much integrity.  He died of heart failure in his easy chair in his home at the former Asa Clapp house on Spring Street.  The Stevens family held the Clapp House from 1863-1914.

HOME OF CHARLES QUINCY CLAPP (AND HIS FATHER ASA)
OWNED BY THE STEVENS FAMILY FOR 50 YEARS
95 SPRING STREET

John Calvin Stevens, famous Portland architect, was born in Boston to Mainer parents whose immigrant ancestor was a William Stevens (1616-1653), also of Caversham, England, possibly a brother to John, the immigrant ancestor of Zachariah et al..

The Stevens Family are buried at all the City cemeteries of Portland.

GRAVE OF ISAAC STEVENS, JR.
BAILEY CEMETERY


GRAVE OF ZACHARIAH STEVENS AND FAMILY
PINE GROVE CEMETERY
GRAVE OF AUGUSTUS ERVIN STEVENS
EVERGREEN CEMETERY

Saturday, July 11, 2015

History of Morrill's Corner

Little has been written online about Portland's "Morrill's Corner", at the intersection of Forest Avenue, Allen Avenue, Stevens Avenue, and the Portland & Rochester Railroad.  Stevens Avenue was constructed from the separate Horse Railroad, upon which many of the Stevens family had lived.

For whom is Morrill's Corner named?  Well, the short answer to that would be "Brothers Rufus and Levi Morrill, who dominated the business landscape of this corner beginning in the early 19th Century."

But for the long answer, I believe it's important to get the history of the Corner and the ancestry of these brothers in order.

First of all, it's important to note that all Morrills of New England descend from two unrelated colonial era English immigrants:  John Morrell (early settler of York County, Maine) and Abraham Morrill (early settler of Salisbury Massachusetts).

Stephen Morrill (1737-1816) of North Berwick (great grandson of John Morrell) was the very first of the Morrills to arrive in this part of Falmouth, long before it was given the name Deering, and he was the first of many Morrills to arrive in the area during that period.  Nathaniel Deering came from neighboring Kittery, and he was the same age as Stephen.  It seems likely that these two early Falmouth businessmen from York County had known each other and possibly inspired each other to move to Falmouth in the 1760's.

The earliest and largest business of The Corner was the Morrill Tannery run by Levi and Rufus Morrill (mentioned in more detail below).  Levi tanned cowhides, and Rufus tanned sheepskins.

Tannery operations were quite simple.  The process involved dipping sheep or cowhides in a vat of lime, followed by dipping them in a vat of hemlock juice (which hardened the hides into leather).  Finally, the hides would be soaked in hen manure and water.


1871 MAP OF MORRILL'S CORNER

As we can tell from the date of the above map, Morrill's Corner has been called this since at least 1871, which was the year that Deering was formed from Saccarappa, with the remainder of Saccarappa to the north being named Westbrook.  This map appears to have been created for the genesis of the Town of Deering.  Morrill Avenue abuts Forest Avenue just south of Morrill's Corner.

"R. Morrill"'s home (Rufus) can be found pinpointed here on Forest Avenue, just north of Morrill Avenue.  On the Horse Railroad to the west (later Stevens Avenue), one can see what appears to be "A.E. Morrill" as well.  Further south on Forest Avenue, and just north of Grove Street, one can see "C.E. Morrill Tannery", which is most definitely Charles E. Morrill's.

SERVICE STATION IN 1924
(MORRILL HOUSE NEXT DOOR)

(PHOTO COURTESY MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY)
"MORRILL HOUSE" (POSSIBLY LEVI MORRILL'S)
BEHIND AMOCO STATION
MORRILL'S CORNER
1229 FOREST AVENUE / 6 ALLEN AVENUE
(CIRCA 1933)
(Became a lodging house up until 1932)

(PHOTO COURTESY MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY)
MORRILL'S CORNER 2014
AMOCO STATION IS NOW SUBWAY SANDWICH SHOP
BRICK LEVI MORRILL HOUSE BEHIND IT
REPLACED BY WHITE WOODEN HOUSE FROM THE 40s


The large colonial brick house above was also known as the "Morrill House".  In its later years it was a rooming house run by George and Loretta Beach.  It was closed for business in 1932, and it was razed sometime shortly thereafter.  As I mentioned above, I believe it may have been the Levi Morrill House (brother to Rufus-more on these brothers below).

Stephen and his two wives had thirteen children, but two were most instrumental in the development of Morrill's Corner, and a third son was instrumental in fathering the Burnham & Morrill empire:

-Rufus Morrill, Sr. (1796-1860), a sheep skin tanner, married both Webb sisters (Mary and Sally), and had nine children at the Corner, most likely in the house above, which was situated next to a toothpick factory for quite some time.  Rufus Jr. (1834-1911), a nurse, who was second to youngest, had three children in Westbrook. Rufus Jr. was a railroad engineer , and he kept the house until his death, where lived with his sister Susan and his daughter Sarah (both spinsters).  Sarah owned it for many years after Rufus' death (Rufus' Sr. son Edmund had moved to Ellsworth, NH, and his eldest daughter Mary had died in China in 1900 - Edmund later became the Governor of Kansas).  Sarah rented the 2nd apartment to a variety of tenants (George A. Thombs, James Sneddon, Albert T. Stults, Truman E. Estabrook) during Sarah's final years there.  Around 1938, Sarah ended up at an elderly care private hospital on 554 Stevens Avenue (owned by Mae Ward) and Sarah's tenant, Truman Estabrook, stayed with the house until it was razed in 1941, in favor of an automotive shop.  The hospital Sarah stayed at also served as the quarters for the sexton of Evergreen Cemetery next door to it.  Sarah died there in the 1940s.

Below is an article concerning Governor Edmund Morrill of Kansas and his visit home to Portland, and this article provides quite a bit of information about the Morrills Corner of the turn of the century.

ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT GOVERNOR MORRILL'S VISIT TO PORTLAND
KANSAS CITY JOURNAL
AUGUST 29, 1895

-Levi Morrill (1802-1868) was a manufacturer.  He and his wife Harriet Quimby had two children. According to the above, he built the red brick mansion which was then occupied by Keeley Cure hospital (which might be 1229 Congress-where the Amoco station was-see photo above).  Levi tanned hides, while his brother Rufus tanned sheep skins.  Levi's son, Charles Edwin Morrill (1841-1891), fought in the Civil War.  By 1871, Charles was in charge of the tannery (located a half mile south of Rufus' house), which was then called the "C.E. Morrill Tannery", located on Forest Avenue - just north of Grove Street.  According to Morrill Online, in 1871 and 1874 he patented methods of manufacturing shoe bindings (patent no. 121,400 and 134,763), and with Charles Hardy, he patented a method of evening leather in 1874 (patent no. 147770).  This tannery could well have been previously run by his father Levi, uncle Rufus, and grandfather Stephen, prior to that.  Charles Edwin Morrill's son, Levi Morrill, carried on the family business to some extent.  He moved to Boston and worked as a leather merchant.  Levi married Anna Hill Lee of DC in April of 1904.  On their honeymoon in Atlantic City, Levi suffered from morphine poisoning and died in their room at the St. Charles Hotel.

CORNER OF FOREST AVENUE
AND GROVE STREET
(2009)
FORMER SITE OF MORRILL TANNERY

Below is a tree outline of this historic family (click to enlarge):



I created the above to give you an idea of the Morrill migration from Berwick to the Morrill's Corner area, and it omits many people.  This is subject to further update, of course, should I discover the need for it.  But as for this writing (July 2015), it gives a relatively accurate picture of the history of this family, for which Morrill's Corner is named.

In 1900, another business started up on The Corner.  It was called "Morrill's Coal & Grain Company" on 35 Allen Avenue.  The business ran until at least 1940.  This business was not owned by anyone in the Morrill family, however, to my knowledge at present.

ADVERTISEMENT
1940 CITY DIRECTORY

Today, everyone knows of Morrill's Corner as a busy, if drab looking, commercial and industrial section of Deering just north of Woodfords, and the location of established restaurants Wok Inn and McDonald's, which have been there since I was a youngster in the 70s, as well as the popular Morrill's Corner Pub just south of Wok Inn.  A proposed new development, Morrill's Crossing, is hotly debated, highly expensive, and is purported to be a revitalization of the area.  Yet, it appears that it will turn what is now a dull blighted area into high density mixed use area resembling every other development of its kind.  This was slated to begin construction in 2010, but I'm not sure of the progress of this at the moment (2015), I think it may have stalled, possibly indefinitely.  While I'm certain that the developer believes this will be a 'revitalization' of the area, it appears to be a very drastic change - something I'm certain that Mainers wouldn't take too kindly to.

Friday, July 10, 2015

York County Exodus of Early 19th Century



In my research into a variety of family groups who resided in Tuftonboro, NH (in Strafford County, which is now Carroll County) in the 19th Century, a common thread has emerged.  Many of these family groups have ancestors who moved in the early part of 19th Century to Tuftonboro from Berwick, Eliot and Kittery Maine, a horse and buggy journey of about 30-40 miles northwest.

To name a few:


I would love to find some kind of rationale, or common thread, if any exists, for these various Maine families to have moved west.  Strafford County (later known as Carroll County) wasn't known for much outside of sheep and cattle farming and a couple old grist mills.  Maine was where all the industrial shipping work was to be found.  The Embargo Act of 1807, however, effectively bankrupted many families in Maine, and was the death knell for much of Maine's timber industry.  Perhaps the move to rural NH was a reaction to the Act?  Perhaps cheap farm land was the way to go?  Perhaps these were all Revolutionary War (or War of 1812) veterans, and they received land patents for their military service?