You would think that all those years in the military would have taught me a few things about volunteering. When cousin Marilyn Aldrich asked me if I would cover for her at last year's Fourth Reunion, since she couldn't make it, I readily agreed to help out. Apparently she was just testing me, because this year she reassured me that I was doing a fine job, and would I mind taking care of all the arrangements. And so I did, with invaluable help from cousin Lois Crabtree Johnson, cousins Hugh and Ruth Sutherland, and cousins Barbara and Howard Simpson. Actually I had so much fun at this year's gathering that it really wasn't much of a burden and I volunteered myself to work on next year's reunion as well.
But I am getting ahead of myself. These reunions were the brainchild of Howard and Marilyn Aldrich, and have been aimed at briefly gathering together the descendents of Captain Agreen Crabtree and the other early Crabtrees who lived in the Hancock/Sullivan/Frenchman's Bay area of Maine. Agreen was the fifth generation Crabtree in America; most of us are tenth through thirteenth generation. We gather to share tales about our ancestors, catch up on any new genealogical discoveries, and just enjoy each others company for a few hours. This year we met at the Holiday Inn in Ellsworth. (See Journal Entries on the Crabtree family reunion held in 1999 and the Crabtree family reunion in 2000.
Agreen settled in the Hancock, Maine, area around 1764 and had a varied career as a farmer, merchant sailor, and pirate/privateer in the Revolutionary War. A DAR historian in Lexington, MA, e-mailed me that she wished she had an ancestor as colorful as Agreen in her lineage.
Agreen and his first wife Sarah had 8 children, and with his second wife Mary another three. The folks at the reunion all come down from three of these eleven lines. To help them find where they are in Agreen's family tree, Lois sketched out an abridged chart. I then copied this over onto a long roll of butcher paper - the chart was nearly twelve feet long! We laid it out on two long tables and invited the cousins to find out where they were, and how they related to all their other cousins in the room. We also asked them to fill in the blanks, since several of the lines were a bit spotty.
First-timers at the reunion this year were my youngest son Jim and Snooky's son Scott and his wife Chris. Neither Jim nor I had seen Scott for years. Chris had put together a wonderful book on the line from my Uncle Charlie (ninth generation) down through the thirteenth generation. The kids seemed to hit it off well, and I was tickled that they were learning something of their Crabtree history and geneaology.
At lunch, cousin Greg Poulos brought us up to speed on the effort to have Captain William Crabtree's grave in Falmouth protected (see can you spot the graveyard in this picture?. Greg has been working with Marge Devine from the Falmouth Historical Society, and they have made some progress. Cousin Steve Crabtree also offered to help out.
The highlight of the reunion, however, was the discovery of my lost cousin. Do you remember this short section in Uncle Charlie's Tapeworm?
That short section is all I ever knew about John's wife or child. There has been a big blank spot on the family history that I despaired ever being able to fill. This spring I received an e-mail from a Peter Crabtree in Bennington, VT. He had come across "Uncle Charlie's Tapeworm" while surfing the web for Crabtree family information. When he read the above section he realized that the baby being talked about was his mother, our long-lost cousin! Shortly thereafter I received another e-mail, this time from Uncle John's "baby girl" - Lena Adrienne Crabtree Gregorio. Adrienne is my first cousin, and her son Peter is my second cousin. She and her husband Fred live in Saco, Maine - only about a 1/2 hour ride from the Farmhouse in Sebago and we never knew it!
Adrienne knew nothing about her Crabtree family relations and was overjoyed at discovering her family after all these years. The "baby" had been born in 1927 in Effingham, NH, and more than 70 years had gone by with no family ties. Penny and I stopped in Bennington on one of my trips back to the Albany, NY, office and shared a cup of coffee with Peter and his wife. When Adrienne and Fred said that they were coming to the reunion, I was overjoyed! When she said she was bringing along some of her homemade orange pistachio biscotti for me as well she won a place in my heart. Adrienne is a delightful lady, and she was able to fill in her part of the family tree. I shared with her the information I had of her father, and an old photo album with photos of her father and grandfather at various ages, growing up in Effingham, NH. We have agreed to meet again. It sure is nice to have a new cousin.
William Crabtree, a cousin in Somerset, MA, has been doing some great research into the first four Crabtree generations in America. He has found deeds, court records and lots of other documents that help fill out the picture. John Crabtree and his wife Alice emigrated from England to His Majesties Colony of Massachusetts Bay in about 1637. He first appears in the records of Boston in February 19, 1637/38 when he was granted a house lot on the north end of the Boston peninsula across from Charlestown and near what was to become the Mill Pond.
William traces John through his life in the Boston Colony until his death sometime after January 9, 1656. He discovered two additional children, Frances and Esther, and more information about the two children we knew about, John and Deliverence. John was a joyner, or carpenter. In practicing his trade he had at least two apprentices and one servant. On at least one instance John filed suit against a joiner in Barbados who owed him 60 pounds, a large sum in 1646 when the suit was filed.
Esther Crabtree, his fourth child, was born around 1646. Her name appears in the Suffolk County Court File No. 874 in 1662 when, at age 16, she was deposed as a witness in a paternity case. Hester Jackson had accused her Master's son, Joseph Gillam, of fathering her child. It appears that the defense was trying to establish that Hester was a "bold slutt", and Esther testified That she saw Hester Jackson put the candle out one of the times and further sayeth that she saw one of the [sailors at the bar in her father's house] kiss her, and further sayeth not only this was before the house full of folks. How the case came out, we don't know. But this is the first time that Esther Crabtree appears. Later her marriage was recorded in 1670 when she was 24. John by that time had died, and his widow Alice had married again.
We know little about Alice. She appears with her husband John in Boston records of 1638. We don't know where she came from in England, how long they had been married, or who her parents were. Their first Boston child was born in 1639, and if he was their first child then William suspects that they had not been married longer than a year before their arrival in Boston. He speculates that they were married shortly before leaving England, or perhaps on the boat coming across - or John could have married here on his arrival in Boston.
The noted scholar and historian, Charles Edward Banks (1854-1931), did extensive research into the early emigrants to New England when he lived in New England and also when he was stationed as an Assistant Surgeon with the Marine Hospital Service in London before WW II. In his Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Emigrants to New England 1620-1650 he lists John Crabtree as emigrating to Boston from the parish of Broughton, near Manchester, in Lancashire.
None of the emigrant ships' lists of passengers show John Crabtree, and a trip to Manchester several years ago failed to come up with any good information that would identify where John came from. The only source that identifies where John came from is Banks. The reference in Banks' Dictionary is "Banks Mss". Resolved to try and get more information, I stopped off at the Bangor Public Library on the way back from the Reunion. In their vaults they have the Banks manuscripts, all 23 files of geneological information that he used to write his several geneaological works on early New England.
The custodian at the Bangor History Room brought the manuscripts up from the vaults for me. After showing him my ID and signing a form, he turned over to me two large storage boxes full of old, brown and brittle notes and documents. Most of the material was written by Banks in a neat hand, in ink and in pencil. There were files of ship records, family information, English parish records and references. The paper was fragile and the edges chipped away. Much of it was small slips of paper, or notes pasted on newspapers and on the backs of letters. It was a wonderful collection - I felt honored to be able to go through it. The custodian came over while I was going through the material. I explained to him who Col Banks was - he was not aware of the significance of this unique collection that the library had. I hope that something is done to preserve the manuscripts - it is too valuable a resource for historians to just crumble into dust.
The Banks manuscripts were very interesting, but clues to John's origin eluded me. However, Banks must have gotten the information from England somewhere - he was too careful a researcher not to have done so. But I gues s we'll have to try other routes to establish the English home of John.
William Crabtree's files on John II, Benjamin, and Benjamin II (second, third, and fourth generations in America) were equally detailed and enlightening. They were a pleasure to read, and William has sent a copy to both Lois Johnson and I. We had copies out on the tables at the reunion, and I read some passages from them. The early Crabtree ancestors in America were interesting, and William's careful research has helped put their lives into perspective and hint at what type of person they were.
The common lore around Hancock is that Agreen Crabtree had a fort down on the Skillings River. Although no fort is mentioned in any of the histories of the area but the local lore is strong. Maynard Foss has a piece of an old cannon that legend has came from Agreen's "Fort". Did Agreen have a fort on the point? Probably not in the sense of what we think of as a traditional fort. But, records do substantiate that he had some sort of commercial establishment there before the Revolution, one that would have logically required some type of secure structure or compound. Protecting it with small arms or small cannon would also fit.
We know that Agreen moved to Hancock in 1764. He had a lumber business and that he shipped lumber in his sailing vessels from a mill on Hills Island in the Skillings River. The island is directly across from the point where his fort was located by legend. On our hike last year we found remnants of an old stone wall, believed to part of the fort compound that Agreen had there.
The island is an ideal spot for a mill, either a saw mill or a grist mill, or both. There is a natural tidal rise and fall of 4-6 feet across a rock ledge that spans the river from bank to island. A good spot to build a dam and waterwheel to capture the energy of the falling water on an outgoing tide.
This summer an archaeologist from Yarmouth, Peter Morrison, did a quick walk-over survey around the point on Skillings River and the island in search of Agreen's "fort". He found evidence of an old rock dam on both the island side and the land side at the rock ledge, and an old cellar hole on the island. On the land side, he discovered the same rock wall that we had found on our hike last fall. And, more exciting, he found a piece of pre-revolutionary war Westerwald pottery. The grey and blue pottery made in Germany was a common household item in those times. Although scant, this is tangible evidence that there was some activity at this site.
Peter suspects that Agreen probably didn't have a fort here in the true sense of the word, but that there could have been either some sort of wooden structure for storing trade goods (e.g. - lumber, flour, fish,...) or a trading post. Probably a log structure or palisades would have been built to secure Agreen's property from the elements and theft.
Peter expects to be back to do a more thorough survey next summer and would welcome volunteers to help walk the area with him. When I asked at the reunion how many would be interested, nearly half the room raised their hands. I'll keep in contact with Peter and let everyone know so that we can line up a work crew for him. And, with any luck we will learn a little bit more about our ancestor and have something interesting to report next time.
"So where are all the Crabtrees buried in Hancock?" my son Jim asked?
"I'll show you this afternoon, after the luncheon" I said "That's where we need to clear some trees and brush, on our cemetery lot".
"Is that where Agreen and all the other Hancock Crabtrees are buried?" chimed in one of the cousins "Where is this cemetery?"
"It's the Riverside Cemetery, just behind the Hancock Elementary School - why don't you follow us this afternoon?"
And so they did - there must have been a dozen relations or more that afternoon roaming around the gravestones. "Look at all the Crabtrees!" exclaimed Donna as we drove into the cemetery. And sure enough, for someone who once thought that Crabtree was an uncommon name, the Riverside Cemetery was like the elephants' burial ground - everywhere you look there is a monument or stone with Crabtree chisled in it. Section 1 of the cemetery in particular was lousy with 'em! This is the section next to Taunton Bay that flows into Sullivan Harbor and then into Frenchman's Bay,
In 1986, Penny and I had bought a lot in Section 1 just a couple over from Agreen's marker, with a nice view of the river through the trees. Not that a view is such a big deal once you are planted, but still.... The kids thought the idea of buying a cemetery plot was really gruesome. "And why Hancock, up in the middle of nowhere?" they asked. Well, we've moved around so much in our lives that Hancock was as good as anywhere - besides, the Effingham lot is full and Hancock is full of dead Crabtree relations!
The cemetery was established in 1885, and the reason we were able to buy a lot in the old section a hundred years later was, I suspect, because the lot is on a side hill. I guess "come late and be happy with what you get" applies. The 30x50 foot lot not only was sloping, but was thick with trees and brush. I'd been meaning to brush it out some year, and decided that this year was it. Jim's coming to the reuion was a plus. We'd brought along his big trailer to haul the brush away, and a couple of chainsaws and various wood cutting tools. Jim and I looked at the lot, and talked over what trees to take and which to leave. I marked the trees we wanted to cut with yellow plastic flagging, but wanted to get Earl's approval first.
We ran into Earl Johnston, the President of the Riverside Cemetery Association. He was searching the gravestones, map in hand, trying to resolve a problem with his records. They showed one individual buried in two separate graves. He walked with me over to Lot 18, our lot, and I told him what we had in mind. He said "Cut 'em all down if you'd like - particularly the oak. The leaves in the fall are really a problem to keep raked up." He had the worst of the undergrowth removed but didn't want to take any more of the trees without talking to me. "You can leave the logs if you'd like - I'll have someone pick them up." I thanked him, added a few trees to the ones to be cut, and Earl went on his way looking for the missing body.
On Sunday morning, Jim and I came back in our work clothes and cut down 20 birch, white pine, and red oak trees. We left the healthiest and straightest trees on the downslope and upslope edges of the lot - a dozen red oak, white pine, and one hemlock. Some of them might have to come down in the future, but in the meantime the lot looks much neater - not the jungle that we had started with. We don't plan on trying out the lot any time soon, but little by little we'll get it ready. We cut the softwood into 4 foot lengths and piled them next to the road. The hardwood got loaded into the trailer. Since the Hancock brush dump wasn't open until Wednesday, I just hauled the brush and the hardwood logs back to the Farmhouse. The brush became the start of this winters brush pile, and the logs went into the firewood pile for the wood furnace.
Besides all the Crabtrees, Riverside Cemetery is a lively place - as cemeteries go. Earl was lamenting the recent vandalism where several stones were overturned or broken. And then we heard about Bubba's funeral! Bubba lived in Hancock and got pretty tipsy at a party with friends on night about 8 years ago. He used to be in the Army. Accounts aren't real clear, but the story goes that he wanted to show how good he was with a rifle. His friends figured he'd hurt someone, and tried to take the rifle away. Bubba would have none of it, and there was a scuffle - the rifle went off, and Bubba shot hisself, dead.
Well, his large and close family decided that nothing would do but a church funeral for Bubba. Even though none of them had ever crossed the threshold of the local church, the minister agreed and his funeral was held with all the trappings. The funeral party then made the short journey to the cemetery, and buried Bubba in a lot not too far from ours. They all then went back home to have a proper wake for him. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, they decided that it was a crime that Bubba was out there in the cold and the dark of his grave. He should be with them, next to the stove and warm.
They hopped in their cars, equipped with shovels and liquid courage, and drove out to the cemetery to dig Bubba up! And, so the story goes, they made quite a time of it - diggin and drinking and bemoaning poor Bubba in the cold, cold ground. The hole in the ground got to be pretty deep - almost deep enough to open up Bubba's casket and bring him home. Sometime during all these goings on, Maggie, a relation of Bubba's, tripped over the handle of a shovel and fell full into the grave. Maggie broke her leg, and had to be taken to the Ellsworth Hospital.
"And so how did you break your leg, Maggie?"
"I fell into a grave if you must know - now be quiet and set it!" I can almost hear her say.
The story ends there, with Maggie in a cast and the family going back home, somewhat sobered. The next day, the cemetery crew came by to clean up. They found a partially dug up grave, so they just filled it back in. As far as I know, Bubba still rests there on the bank of the river, peacefully quiet, and probably doesn't notice the cold a bit.
Whenever we decide to get planted, with neighbors like these it probably is going to be a jolly old time out there once the living go home and leave the cemetery to the folks that stay there full-time.
Several good suggestions were floated as to what next year's reunion will be like. If we can coordinate with the archaeologist, we might combine the reunion with some field work with him - it will depend on when in the year he will be down at Agreen's fort.
Or, we might spend the time looking for Agreen's real grave. Although there are monuments to Agreen, his wife Mary, son George, and others, their graves are not at Riverside Cemetery. They lived down on the end of Hancock Point from about 1795 till they died,and were buried in the Crabtree family cemetary on their farms. According to Lois Johnson, the old maps show the cemetary. It is located just behind the Crocker House, where we always stay when we come to Hancock. I took a quick stroll through the woods, but didn't find anything that looked like an old graveyard. There are no stones, nor any enclosure, as far as Lois knows, so we would have to look for the indentations where the graves have settled. When they erected the monuments at Riverside 80 or 90 years after Agreen died in 1808, they simply took a shovelful of earth from the grave and placed that at the monument.
So, keep in touch. Whatever we end up doing at next year's reunion of the Crabtree Clan should be fun, or interesting, or maybe just add to our appreciation of these ancestors of ours. Remember we are, to one degree or another, a reflection of all the family ancestors who have gone before. The more we learn of them, the more we learn of ourselves.
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Last updated October 1, 2001
Copyright © 2001, Allen Crabtree
Copyright © 2001, Allen Crabtree