The poor shall never cease out of the land
Numbers, The Bible


What is our role as individuals concerning those neighbors who are less fortunate than we? What should we as a society do? What is the value of human life? Who should decide that?

The earliest records of Alexander are within the Selectmen’s Book starting in 1849. Here we find the term “Overseer of the Poor’ and detail on the paupers of that time. Editor’s comment in Italics.

March 30, 1850 C. M. Huff – Order for services as Chairman of board of Selectmen and

Overseer of Poor in full …………………………………… $5.00
William Cole – Order for services as selectman and Overseer of Poor ……… $5.00

C. M. Huff was Claudius Huff and he lived at 311Arm Road, the house still stands and is likely the oldest in Alexander. Rose Williams lives here today.
William Cole
lived north of the Airline on the extension of the Huff Road (lot 64)


Acct. for all Orders drawn for support of the poor for current financial year 1849

Apr. 14 Mrs. P. Scribner – Order for board of Mrs. S. Fenlason, in part ……………… $4.50
May 14 for same ……………… $2.88
ditto ….…………… $2.63
May 28 Aaron Scott – Order for board of Nicholas Peter, in full ……………………… $7.50
June 16 Mrs. P. Scribner – Order for board of Mrs. S. Fenlason, in part ………………. $6.00
Aug. 1 for same ………………. $8.50
ditto ………………. $5.00
Sept. 4 Dr. C. C. Porter – Order for 7 visits John Morrison …………………………… $28.00
Sept. 22 Mrs. P. Scribner – Order for board of Mrs. S. Fenlason, in full ……………….. $8.43
Oct. 15 John Gooch – Order for board of Mrs. Frances Gooch in 1846, in full …… …$11.00
Dec. 12 N. P. Merserve – Order for board of Mrs. Sally Fenlason, in part …………… $19.50


Feb. 21 Francis Robb – Order for board of Fountain Smith …………………………..…. $7.00
Feb. 25 Eph. Scott – Order for same ……………………………………………………. $4.00
March 29 N. P. Merserve – Order for board of Mrs. Fenlason …………………………… $22.50
John Perkins – Order for board of Thomas Blither in winter of 1848 & 49 …… $


Mrs. P. Scribner was Phebe (Scott) Scribner, widow of Samuel Scribner. Samuel died in April 1830 leaving Phebe with up to eight children ranging in age from 1 year (George Stillman Smith Scribner) to 10 years (Emmeline who would marry William Bugbee). Phebe herself must have a hard time caring for her family. Here we see a way a widow could earn a little money, maybe to pay the taxes.

Mrs. S. Fenlason, a pauper, was likely Sally (Hathaway) Fenlason, widow of Samuel Fenlason.

Aaron Scott and Nicholas Peter, paupers, are mysteries to this researcher as is Dr. C. C. Porter.

John Morrison, pauper, was born in England on June 6, 1828, son of James and Cecelia, both born in Ireland. This family was back in Ireland in 1831, in Nova Scotia in 1832, in Eastport in 1834, and in Alexander before 1840. The family moved to Baileyville before the 1850 census. John apparently died for he is not listed with his family in Baileyville. Where in town did they live?

John Gooch was a son of Ebenezer. He lived on Breakneck, near his father, and later on Gooch Hill in the haunted house.

Mrs. Frances Gooch, pauper, will be described in the following article.

N. P. Merserve was Nathaniel who was born in New Hampshire about 1792. He lived in Alexander from before 1840 until after 1850. He lived alone according to the census records. Sally Fenlason was born in 1793. She may have worked as a housekeeper for Meserve so as to keep her “board” charge low, however, there apparently was no romance since we find Sally, not listed as a pauper, living at Benjamin A. Strout home in 1850.

Francis Robb along with Hugh, John and Thomas were sons of old John Robb and came from Ireland with him. This family settled on Robb Hill. Francis and his wife Anna (Niecen) probably lived on the east side of the road since in 1844 when their son Francis was born, his place of birth is listed as Baileyville.

Fountain Smith is listed as head of household in Baileyville on the 1840 census. No other record.

Ephraim Scott was born in 1810 at Baileyville. He and his family lived in Alexander only at the time of the 1850 census. Their home likely was on or near the Robb Hill Road.

John Perkins was either John J. (born 1815) who lived on Lanes Hill or John (born 1793) who lived on the road to Cooper.

Thomas Blither – The only clue I find for this man is Jane Blyther, born June 3, 1801 who became the first wife of James Gooch Fenlason on May 1, 1831. They and their five children resided in Alexander according to John G. Taylor, Alexander’s first town clerk. Were Jane and Thomas related?



A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization
Samuel Johnson

From the seventeenth century into the twentieth century, the poor were the responsibility of the local government. This was true in England and New England. The colonial, or later the state governments, or the national government did not start providing for paupers until well into the twentieth century. The town where the person had established residency was the town responsible for care for the paupers, even if the person were to move elsewhere.

The poor person or family was brought before the town meeting and bid-off to the lowest bidder. In other words, the town would pay someone to take in the poor, and the town would place the poor where it would cost the least. A sickly widow with half a dozen young children cost a lot to feed and clothe, and not be much help in the home, therefore bidders would demand a big amount of money to take that family for a year. However, a healthy widow with six strong children could be very helpful in the home and around the farm, therefore bidders would take that family for far fewer dollars. Most of the paupers were widows with children, or older people.

The bidding-off of the poor was outlawed in 1840 and towns were to establish poor farms or poor houses where the paupers could live and work and take care of each other. This did happen in most larger places, however, in small towns a corruption of the former system continued. The bidding-off was done more through word of mouth and the poor were still living in local homes We will see that in Alexander, taking in a pauper was a way of paying the property tax bill.

In homes or at poor farms, the quality of life for the poor varied greatly. Some poor were treated as family, sharing the family table and family chores. Others were placed in unheated rooms, fed the poorest of food, and were clothed in rags. Two short stories by Maine author Sarah Orne Jewett (1849 – 1909) illustrate these extremes, The Town Poor, and The Flight of Betsey Lane.


In 1851, the Town of Farmington arranged for A. T. Hamlen to care for the twenty paupers of that town for the fee of $800. Farmington, the shire town of Franklin County, had a population of 2725 in 1850. That was large enough to have a poor farm, or poor house. The poor house was at times called the almshouse.

Zephaniah Morton Vaughn was a selectman and overseer of the poor in New Vineyard, a Franklin County town with 635 people in 1850. On March 18, 1854, he wrote in his diary,
Disposed of the poor of the town. The weather was cold and windy.”

That’s a blunt way to say that he had arranged for the care of the poor for the coming year! We’ll read more from his diary when we deal with building schoolhouses during that era.

The Town of Lewiston had a population of 4584 in 1850. It had several policies to keep its poor account from being too big. First they made sure each pauper had a legal right to help. Secondly, they gave some direct assistance to families to keep them in their homes. Examples of this would be abating property taxes, paying for funerals (especially for families of soldiers during the Civil War), paying for rent, clothing or food, and paying family members to care for their relatives. If all these failed to solve the pauper’s plight, the “town farm” became their home. Lewiston ran the town farm from 1839 until 1967.

One Lewiston pauper auctioned off between 1832 and 1835 was Sarah Dill. Was she an ancestor of John Dill who lived in Alexander (Dill Hill) in the 1900’s? He and his family were paupers here in 1907 and on April 2, 1908, Alexander received from Lewiston $46.11 for support of Dill.

Calais had 4749 people in 1850. Its poor farm was located on the farm of early settler Jonathan Knight, across from the Sandwich Man on North Street. Because in Calais, as in other communities, the official system for caring for the poor did not always work well, charity groups came into being. The Ladies Benevolent Society originated in Milltown in March 1828 to “assist the poor, and particularly the sick, and those unable to labor.” During its existence, the Society distributed $8000 to needy families.


Fanny Downes was born at Steuben on July 23, 1799. She was listed as from Township 14 when she married Ebenezer Gooch, Jr. and they lived in Crawford. They had two children of record, Jeremiah was born on August 12, 1824 and Ebenezer, III was born on November 6, 1825, both in Crawford. Ebenezer Gooch, Jr. died late in 1825. Here is information from the probate record.

Note: Fanny’s father was likely Ebenezer Downes listed on the 1820 census of #14. Township 14 became Plantation 14 BPP-ED (Bingham’s Penobscot Purchase, Eastern Division)


The records on file at the Probate Office in Machias give a good picture. Fanny was appointed administrator of the estate on January 3, 1826. An inventory of Ebenezer’s estate was done by John Cooper, Abraham Fletcher and Jacob Stevens. The estate was valued at $176.85 which included 4 ½ tons of English hay worth $45.00. A cow, a heifer and 2 sheep were valued at $38.00. Fanny is quoted as being concerned that she will not be able to pay her debts.

Probate Judge John Dickinson appointed Abraham Beedle and Jacob Stevens to examine all the claims against the estate, which amounted to $265.84. Fanny asked “for her wearing apparel and such other necessities as in your discretion you may see fit and proper, being left without any right of dower and two small children to educate and support.”

In February 1829 Fanny presented this account of expenses. The claims against the estate are listed here with the apportionment each claimant received:

Funeral - $30.00 Horatio G. Balch $15.00 $1.82

Appraising - $6.00 John L. Merritt $57.13 $6.92
Printing notice - $2.00 Rufus K. Porter $21.57 $2.60
Doctor for final sickness - $22.00 Wm. Whittemore $157.27 $19.22
Probate fees - $5.00 Alvan Bridgham $7.47 $0.90
For assistance - $5.00 Jacob Stevens $7.40 $0.89
Four trips to Machias – $7.00 Totals $265.84 $32.35
My time - $16.00

Allowed by Judge of Probate - $50.00
Printing notice - $1.50

Total $144.50

On January 17, 1829 Fanny married Daniel Gooch of Alexander, her first husband’s brother. Their first child Livonia was born in Crawford on September 23, 1831. (Lovina married Reuben T. Fenlason who died in the well on Breakneck) The family must have moved to Alexander for the next two children were born there, Leonard Jarvis on February 23, 1834 and Philena Laiten on April 24, 1836. This family was back in Crawford according to the 1840 census. Then Daniel disappeared. Did he die or abandon his family? Either way, the next time Fanny Gooch is found in the records is the 1849 entry found printed above, i. e.

Oct. 15 John Gooch – Order for board of Mrs. Frances Gooch in 1846, in full ……$11.00

Thus continues the sad record of this woman, the mother of five children, likely widowed twice, destined to be shuffled from place to place for the rest of her life. Count the places where she lived. Why did she run away? Are we in the twentieth-first century more humane in our treatment of those less fortunate? Here is what the record holds. First, let’s look at an 1850 petition from Cooper.



To The Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Maine:

We the subscribers, citizens of the Town of Cooper in the County of Washington Humbly represent that Frances Gooch, an insane person found in said Town of Cooper, was in the month of February AD 1848 committed to the Insane Hospital in Augusta, and has been there ever since maintained at the expense to said town of at least two hundred and fifty dollars; which amount & more is now due & unpaid by said town. That said town has but a small population & is poor and greatly burdened with taxes for the building of roads, having raised and expended at least three thousand dollars within the two years last past, and having as large an amount of roads to build in the two years next coming, and other burdens for the repair of highways & the support of the poor greatly disproportional to the means of the people of the town. We therefore pray that an appropriation may be made to pay out of the State treasury the amount of said bill for the support of said Frances Gooch on such part of the same as it may please your Honorable Bodies to grant for our relief, And we’ll ever pray.

Signed by John Sprague and 70 male citizens of Cooper – Received in Augusta in August 1850.


So Fanny had found her way from the John Gooch home to Cooper. This is the first recorded instance of her running away, but it isn’t the last. We don’t know what became of this petition. A copy of the original with all the signatures is in the A-CHS file. Now we return to the Alexander Selectmen’s Record about Fanny Gooch.

March 29, 1853 – Paid to R. K. Thistlewood for support of Mrs. Gooch, $52.00 plus $3.40 for shoes and clothing.
September 6, to December 20, 1853 – R. K. Thistlewood was paid $61.00 for the support of Mrs. Gooch.
April 18, 1855 – Paid R. K. Thistlewood $50.88 for support of Mrs. Gooch.
June 23, 1855 – Paid to B. A. Strout $23.35 for Mrs. Gooch.
September 25, 1855 – Paid Benjamin Tidd $16.00 for looking up Mrs. Gooch.
December 17, 1855 – paid Mr. Hutchings $12.00 for Mrs. Gooch.
February 13 to March 26, 1856 – Paid to Charles Stanchfield $1.00 for shoes, $1.38 for clothing, $1.50 for work done, and $67.50 for keeping Mrs. Gooch.
May 12 to September 22, 1856 – Paid $48.75 to Reuben Keen for Mrs. Gooch.
November 20, 1856 to March 26, 1857 – Paid to Isaiah Bailey $21.00 for support of Mrs. Gooch.
April 22, 1857 – Paid to Simeon Bailey $10.00 for support of Mrs. Gooch.
June 6, 1857 – Paid to Isaiah Bailey $3.50 for support of Mrs. Gooch.
July 18, 1857 – Paid B. A. Strout $3.95 clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
July 22, 1857 – Paid to Simeon Bailey $7.00 for Mrs. Gooch.
July 23 to November 13, 1857 – Paid to Hiram Crafts $30.04 for support of Mrs. Gooch.
|November 24, 1857 – Paid to B. A. Strout $4.20 clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
April 2, 1858 – Paid Stephen Billings $2.00 for returning Mrs. Gooch.
April 3, 1858 - This day John Gooch agrees to board Mrs. Fanny Gooch for one dollar 45/100 per week and to take care of her and if she gets away from his house he agrees to look for her and return her to his house. And then keep her without any expense to the town for watching her or for returning her.
May 24, 1858 – To order of C. M. Huff $5.00 clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
May 24 to December 1, 1858 – To order in favor of John Gooch $45.25 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
March 18 to June 6, 1859 – to order in favor of John Gooch $60.20 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
June 15, 1859 - John Gooch agrees to board Mrs. Gooch for $1.25 per week.

November 25, 1859 - Settled with John Gooch up to the 27
th inst. for board for Fanny Gooch.

March 30 1860 – Settled with John Gooch up to and including this day, for the board of Fanny Gooch - $36.62.
April 23 1860 – John Gooch refused give up the charge of Mrs. Fanny Gooch to the overseers of the poor.
June 7, 1860 – Made application to have her taken away. (from John Gooch)
June 9, 1860 – Removed her to the house of B. A. Strout. Said Strout agrees to board aforenamed Gooch for one dollar 50/100 per week the proceeds of which board he agrees shall go towards paying a demand which the town holds against him. (Back taxes?)
July 1, 1860 – Removed Fanny Gooch to the house of Asa Libby, price per week one dollar.
October 29, 1860 – to order in favor of O. H. Libby $14.00 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
March 23, 1861 – to order of B. A. Strout $4.00 clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
July 3, 1861 – Paid Oliver H. Libby $15.00 board of Mrs. Gooch.
February and March 1862 – Paid O. H. Libby $38.00 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
March 30, 1862 – Settled with Oliver H. Libby for board of Mrs. Fanny Gooch to date.
May and July 1862 – Paid O. H. Libby $9.00 board of Mrs. Gooch.
March 18, 1863 – Paid Joseph Perkins $33.25 board of Mrs. Gooch.
March 30, 1863 – Settled with Joseph Perkins for board of Mrs. Gooch to date.
August 6, 1863 – Paid Isaiah Bailey $12.75 for boarding Mrs. Gooch.
January 2, 1864 – Geo. S. S. Scribner – $4.76, clothing for Mrs. Fanny Gooch
March 4, 1864 – Solomon Strout - $1.62, shoes for Mrs. Gooch.
April – July 1864 – Paid Isaiah Bailey $41.25 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
September 1864 – February 1865 – Paid Solomon Strout. Jr. $41.25 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
March 18. 1865 – Paid A. H. Sawyer (Dry Goods of Calais) $22.14 for goods for Mrs. Fanny Gooch.
June – November 1865 – Paid Solomon Strout $41.24 for board of Mrs. Fanny Gooch.
March 23, 1866 – Paid Asa Libby $33.75 for board of Mrs. Fanny Gooch.
March 24, 1866 – Paid A. H. Sawyer $12.87 for clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
December 26, 1866 – Paid to Oliver H. Libby $48.75 for boarding Fanny Gooch.
March 20, 1867 – Paid Asa Libby $16.25 for boarding Fanny Gooch.
September 30, 1867 – Paid Asa Libby $17.08 for boarding Mrs. Gooch.
March 27, 1868 – Paid B. A. Strout $5.00 for boarding Mrs. Gooch.
April 22, 1868 – Paid A. H. Sawyer $7.28 for clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
April – August 1868 – Paid Jere. Spearin $46.25 for board of same.
August 10, 1868 – Mrs. Gooch left Jeremiah Spearin and went to B. A. Strout.
October 1868 – March 1869 – Paid B. A. Strout $46.25 for same.
February 19, 1869 – Paid Stickney & Horton $9.13 for clothing for Mrs. Gooch.
July 26, 1869 – Paid B. A. Strout $11.79 for board of Mrs. Gooch.
August – December 1869 – Paid Joseph Godfrey $27.35 board and clothing for same.

From this time forward we find only an annual statement, “To this amount from Order Book.” The following are the final entries in this record book about Fanny Gooch.

June 3, 1872 – Put Mrs. Fanny Gooch to John Gooch’s at $1.25 per week. He agrees to board her until he pays all that he owes the Town on taxes.

April 30, 1873 – Settled with John Gooch. Board of Mrs. Fanny Gooch to June 3rd at which time his average taxes and also all taxes on account of land sold and deeded to the town.

September 26, 1873 – Mrs. Gooch commenced boarding with Mr. Godfrey.

October 2, 1875 – Mrs. Gooch commenced boarding with George W. Bohanon at $1.50 per week.

June 3, 1876 – G. W. Bohanon paid for Mrs. Gooch’s board to this date.

October 3, 1876 – Mrs. Gooch went to John Sears to board at one dollar, 50 per week.

April 10, 1877 – Mrs. Gooch went to O. H. Libby’s to board at $1.40 per week.

The 1880 census has Fanny Gooch, age 80, boarder, widow, pauper, and insane living in the home of Hiram A. Crafts.

Jerry Gower informed us that Fanny Gooch died in 1891 and is buried at the Indian River Cemetery in Jonesport, Maine. The Indian River community was apparently the home of Fanny’s daughter Philena Leiton who was born in Alexander. Philena Leiton was married to Captain H. G. Crowley. They and her mother are found in the same cemetery lot. Philena is listed on her gravestone as “Fanny P.” It is possible that our Fanny, the pauper, was properly named “Philena”.


A peddler with a backpack full of wares to sell was going from the Airline towards Cooper (on what today we call the Cooper Road). It was getting on towards dark so he stopped at the home of Jesse Stephenson, on the shore of Pleasant Lake (today the home of Llewellyn Dwelley) and asked if he could get supper and stay the night. Stephenson replyed in the negative but allowed that John Gooch at the top of the hill would take in the man. So the peddler departed.

John Gooch and his brother Joel had purchased lot 98 from Bingham Heirs in 1835. We know that they also owned land on lot 97 on Breakneck. Joel apparently was living on Breakneck in August 1852 when he died in that famous well. John went down into the well to save Joel, but was too late. Did John live on Breakneck in 1852? We do find him residing at the top of Gooch Hill (lot 98) in 1861. It was to this house up the hill from Pleasant Lake that Jesse Stephenson sent the peddler.

Ghost stories are murky things. Was the peddler killed for the goods in his pack? Had he crawled into bed with Mrs. Gooch? Was his throat slit? Was his body dumped into a well on Burnt Barn Hill? Or was the well on Breakneck? Was he buried in the cellar? All agree that the peddler was never seen again.

Fanny Gooch, described as old and senile would often asked, “What would you think if you saw two men go down cellar, and only one come up?” And on her death bed, she sat up and stated, “God, I did not kill that man.”

This house was sold 1) to Calais land speculator Joseph Grange after 1861, 2) to William and Mary Gillespie about 1880, 3) to Herbert and Alice Perkins about 1900, 4) to their daughter Leota and son-in-law Les Worrell, 5) to Ed Sullivan who used it as a hunting camp, 6) to Frank and Bertha Dwelley, who shortly after Frank died at Carleton Davis’s sawmill, sold it to 7) Everett and Rowena Bates. They moved into the house in June 1958. Here’s Rowena’s story.

I do not believe in ghosts. But the following May, the last week in May, the door to the ell bedroom kept opening up. We were sleeping in that room. I would shut it, or Everett would, and later it would be wide open. I even drove a nail into the door casing and tied a cord around the doorknob and the nail to keep the door closed. But, when I’d go back up stairs, the knot would be untied and the door would be open again. It was a cold windy May, so I thought the wind was the problem, except for the knot. Once when I awoke in the middle of the night, I felt a cool breeze cross over my arm that wasn’t under the quilt. That really made me think.

I had been elected Town Clerk that year and Lewis Frost was here on town business and I mentioned the door. Lewis said, “Oh, he’s back.” That’s how I found out about the ghost.

The following year during the last week in May, the same thing happened. We moved this modular home here in 1967 and tore the old place down. He never bothered except for those first two years. Of course, we found afterwards that everybody around here knew about the body buried in the cellar and the ghost in the ell bedroom.

Thanks A-CHS members Rowena and Everett for sharing this story. jhd



The story of Fannie Gooch gave a hint about residency requirements that paupers had to meet to get help from the town. The material here is based on an article by Jean Hankins that was in the fall 2000 issue of Maine History, the newsletter of the Maine Historical Society. Thanks to A-CHS member Emily Greenleaf for bringing this to our attention.

Two principles about care of the poor came from England to early New England. The first was as stated in the title. The town, not the church, or state, or family was responsible for the poor. This can be seen by looking again at the story of Fanny.

Cooper had no responsibility to pay for her time at the insane hospital, and the citizens of that town asked the legislature for relief from that obligation. In reality, Cooper should have billed Alexander for her care. Later, Alexander paid for her care for over thirty years as was recorded in issue 109. There is no record of reimbursement from the state because there was no reimbursement. Each town had to maintain their own poor. That simple statement becomes complicated by what follows.

Inhabitancy was a prerequisite for town assistance. That seems easy enough, one had to be living in a town to get help. Wrong! Maine “settlement” law after 1820 was modeled after Massachusetts’s law and remained in effect until the 1960’s. The law dealt with men, women and children. Place of birth was not an issue. Let’s look at each.

For a twenty-one year old man to establish “settlement” in a town, he must live there for five consecutive years without receiving town aid.

The woman derives “settlement” from her husband. Remember that in the nineteenth century women did not have many rights. However, a divorce decree did not affect the “settlement” of the woman or children.

Legitimate children under twenty-one derived “settlement” from their father. Illegitimate children acquired “settlement” from their mother.

The records left by the overseers of the poor in Alexander and the Cooper petition make one wonder how this complicated law was applied. Let’s look again at Fanny. As a woman she derived her “settlement” from her husband. Ebenezer Gooch, Jr., her first husband, was twenty-two years old and “of Crawford” in 1818 when they married. He died sometime in 1825. He had “settlement” in Crawford because he had lived there for five years, unless the town had helped him during that time. The probate court records about Ebenezer’s estate make no mention of being a pauper, even though the family was poor.

When Fanny married Daniel Gooch, he is “of Alexander”. They were married in Crawford and resided there according to census records from 1830 through 1840, except were in Alexander when their two younger children were born. Daniel was thirty-one when he married Fanny, and records indicate he had lived in Alexander within his father’s family since before the 1820 census. He had “settlement” in Alexander, but apparently did not gain “settlement” in Crawford because his residency was broken when the family was in Alexander when the two children were born (1834 and 1836). Death, divorce, or abandonment left Fanny and her five children in need of help. The town that had to maintain Fanny was Alexander, even though she had not lived here very long. She gained her “settlement” from Daniel.

Thus the overseers of the poor and the taxpayers of Cooper had no legal obligation to care for Fanny Gooch. Their petition to have the state pay the bill at the insane hospital was not needed because she was Alexander’s responsibility



Now let’s look again at the other paupers listed in the 1849-50 account found in issue 109. Were Nicholas Peter, Fountain Smith, and Thomas Blither “settled” in Alexander? At this time we don’t know. The other three paupers, Sally Fenlason, Fanny Gooch, and John Morrison, were “settled” in Alexander.

On September 13, 1852 the Town paid William Porter $4.00 for the support of the Roberts children. Alexander census records list no Roberts family. Did the children have a right to aid ?

In 1855, Asa Libby, Paul Morse, Mrs. Moore, Wesley Flood, William Spearin all were paid for the support of George Tidd. George Tidd was not listed in the 1850 census. He died in Alexander on December 24, 1855. It is interesting to note that Mrs. Moore was at times a pauper. She was the widow of John Moore (1795-1852), early settler of Alexander. Nancy Moore died in 1856.

On January 3, 1859 the Town of Alexander paid the Town of Kingfield (in Franklin County) $22.22 for the support of the William Connick family. Kingfield overseers had billed Alexander as William Connick had “settlement” in Alexander, even though he resided in Kingfield.

In 1858-59 Thomas Bailey boarded David Beverly for the town. David was 60 years old and likely was of help around the farm since the bill was only $8.00. Both Bailey and Beverly were Baileyville residents in the 1850 census, and by 1860 were not listed in either Baileyville or Alexander. So often these bits of historic information lead to questions.

Cordelia Seavey and children were paupers from November 1858 through November 1861. Deborah Rand’s The Seavey Family relates that Sylvanus Henry Seavey was the eighth of 13 children born to Edward and Sarah (Averill) Seavey. He married Cordelia Crockett and they had five children. Delia [1846] and Cordelia [1848] were the two eldest. Sylvanus died on August 20, 1855. In 1850 the family was living with Cordelia’s parents, William and Mary Crockett. Is Sylvanus buried at the Crockett/Davis Cemetery on lot 92 in Alexander?

Cordelia and her children boarded in the homes of Benjamin Strout, Robert K. Thistlewood, Isaiah Bailey, William Spearin, Aaron Averill of Alexander, and Daniel F. Wormwood of Crawford. “She left with children for Machias” on June 10, 1861, and “returned with one child” on June 28. She and her children do not appear on either Crawford or Alexander census in 1860. Where did this family go and how were they maintained? More unanswered questions.

Apparently Cordelia and her children were the responsibility of Alexander because Sylvanus had established “settlement” here before his death in 1855.

Are you confused? The overseers of the poor in many Maine towns must have been.


Municipal Officers and Overseers of the Poor.

The attention of municipal officers and overseers of the poor of the cities and towns of Maine is requested to Chapters thirteen and ninety-three of the Statutes of this State. By the provisions of these laws it will be seen that the body of any person dying in this State which shall not be claimed for burial by the family or next of kin of such person, shall be subject to use of the Medical School of Maine, for anatomical purposes.

Persons having the care of such a body shall immediately notify the municipal officers of the Town where the body is, and upon receipt of such notice, the municipal officers of such town shall immediately notify, by mail or otherwise, the officers of the Medical School of Maine, and such notice shall state the age and sex of the deceased and the cause of death, if known; and on the request of the officers of said School, said municipal officers shall deliver the body to the officers of the School or to any regular physician or surgeon by them designated to receive the same, the receiver giving bond to the treasurer of said town, in the sum of one hundred dollars, that said body shall be used only for anatomical purposes in this State, and that after it is no longer required for such purposes, it shall be decently buried.

Any person who shall knowingly violate these provisions shall forfeit the sum of thirty dollars, to be recovered by an action of debt, one-half to the use of the prosecutor and one-half to the use of said Medical School of Maine.

For the transportation of the bodies, stout boxes should be used, being less likely to be broken than barrels. A convenient size for a body six feet tall is 34 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 24 inches high. The body should be doubled up and securely packed in hay or straw to prevent injury, and should be sent by express. The notifications and boxes should be plainly directed to



Paupers were worth more dead than alive according to this undated notice. The following letter hints to how medical schools once acquired cadavers.

to: Dr. Parker Cleveland
Head Librarian of the Medical School September 25, 1830
Bowdoin College
Brunswick, Maine

My Dear Sir:

It will give me pleasure to render you any assistance in regards to subjects. I think you may reply upon having them. I shall immediately invoke Frank, our body-snatcher (a better never lifted the spade), and confer with him on the matter. We get them here without any difficulty at present, but I would not for the world that any but ourselves should know that I have winked at their being sent out of Baltimore.

I will cause three to be put up in barrels with whiskey. I suppose they will require about half a barrel each of whiskey; this at 35 cts. a gallon will be $16.80. The barrels are a dollar each; the subjects the putting up of $10 each – making in all $50.00.

Please let me know to whose care they will be directed.

Dr. Wells did not pay for the journal. Boston money is very good here. The 4th number will be sent.

Yours very respectfully,
J. M. Smith
Baltimore, Maryland

We learn from this letter that the Maine laws requiring town selectmen to ship to the Maine Medical School at Bowdoin the body of any pauper to be buried at public expense was not producing enough bodies for the medical students. Or maybe it was cheaper to buy the bodies from Baltimore! We can guess that Smith’s operation is not entirely legal. It was not at all unusual to ship a body in a barrel of liquor in the days before refrigeration. England’s famed Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson in 1805 died while his fleet defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar. He didn’t want to be buried at sea, so his body was shipped home in a barrel of Madera wine.


Verne Carlow was a WWI veteran. In May 1921 he married neighbor Thelma Smith. Early in 1922 a baby was born, and died. Four days later Vern died. The community often looks upon the veteran kindly, and the Selectmen authorized payment of doctor’s bills, medicine and funeral expenses. Verne and baby were buried in the family lot at the Alexander Cemetery, not as paupers.

Local records on our poor are missing until the first known annual report was published for 1921 – 22. In that year Alexander appropriated $350 for the Poor Account. Noland and Gladys Perkins boarded and cared for Joe Hunnewell for the entire year for $385.12. Joe was born in 1862 and was single. He had some physical and mental problems. Walter Strout was paid $3.00 for hauling Joe’s teeth. Other items listed in the report for Joe were underwear $3.00, truss $2.50, stockings 40.50, a bottle of Dr. Kings Discovery $0.60 and tennis shoes $2.00. Joe continues at Noland’s until 1928. Serious researchers need to see the original records.

In 1926 – 27 George Bohanon was boarded by Herbert and Alice Perkins for $30.00; must have been late fall for the next year the cost of board was $293.00. George, born in 1852, was single and came from the Arm Road and Herbert lived at the top of Gooch Hill.

1928 – 29 brought about some changes. Joe boarded with Roland and Eva Perkins. George was at Roland’s awhile and at Alvin Carlow’s. Eda Frost got $2.00 for knitting mittens for George and Arthur Flood was paid $23.65 for clothes for George. George must have been working out of doors at times. Also at Alvin Carlow’s was Otis Bridges. The only time we find Otis in Alexander Vitals is on the 1920 census, there he is 74 years old, a widower, and living in the home of Harvey Niles as a servant. Also in Niles’ home was Grace Dixon who was Otis’s daughter. The town paid Alvin for board and care for Otis while he was sick. The town also paid Dr. Crane $15.00 for care of Otis.

1930 was Joe Hunnewell’s last year. He boarded with Roland Perkins, Gladys Perkins and Morey Hunnewell. Doctor Norman Cobb of Calais was paid $10.00 for a call to Alexander for Joe. The Calais Hospital (then on Church Street) charged $88.50 for care of Joe and Ernest Scholl (undertaker, also on Church Street) was paid $100 to see that Joe was properly buried at the Alexander Cemetery. Otis Bridges and George Bohanon were still at Alvin Carlow’s. The town spent $1340.31 in support of the poor. Pliney Frost felt that Otis had died in Alexander. NFI

In 1931 and 1932 George Bohanon lived with Alvin Carlow and Walter Henderson. Lots of men worked on the roads and in 1932 Morey Hunnewell and Walter Strout both needed help on groceries.

During 1933 and 1934 George Bohanon continued with Walter Henderson for $250.00 per year and was supplied tobacco. Others needing help with groceries and clothing were Morey Hunnewell and the Florence Kneeland family.

In 1935 Alexander appropriated $800.00 for support of the poor. It received $12.00 from Calais for care of John Derry, $72.50 from Lizzie Flood toward support of Addie Perkins and $147.48 from the State of Maine on the Florence Kneeland account. (Remember residency, Derry must have been of Calais and Kneeland of some unorganized township). Addie Perkins was Lizzie (Perkins) Flood’s sister. Addie was seventy-six and boarded with Fannie Dwelley. Dr Cobb visited Addie before she died. Morey Hunnewell dug the grave ($5.00) and Rev. C. D. Wentworth did the funeral service ($2.00). Addie had been disfigured in her face as a child; an older brother had thrown a table knife that left a huge scar on her cheek. She was unattractive and never married. Ernest School buried George Bohanon for $42.28. An unknown E. V. Sullivan charged $12.00 for services for John Derry and the same for George Bohanon. Sullivan was likely a doctor, see 1938.

1936 had only $3.00 payment for a transient at Noland Perkins.

1937 had just one call for aid. Dan McArthur’s family; A total of $50.57 was provided to the family, the Calais Hospital, for transportation to Calais and medicine.

In 1938 Dan McArthur’s family continued on hard times. Two year-old Lillian took sick and died that year. Dr. Sullivan’s services ($18.00), and George Irvine’s charge for the funeral ($41.59) plus groceries from C. L. Brown ($20.77) are recorded. Ida (McPheters) Hunnewell was at the Calais Hospital ($14.25), died, and was buried by the town (E. Scholl, $95.00). Her son Floyd paid $50.26 toward her funeral expenses. Floyd was working for Stowell MacGregor for a dollar a day; he married Ethel shortly after he buried his mother.

In 1939 Floyd Hunnewell gave $23.84 more toward his mother’s expenses. Moses Kneeland’s family got $4.00 in supplies from C. L. Brown’s Store. These were the Great Depression years; we don’t see great poverty in Alexander. Why is that? In 1940 no money was raised for the poor and none was spent. The account actually grew as Floyd Hunnewell made another payment toward his mother’s funeral costs. The same for 1941 except the town paid $125.00 for the burial of Inez Wellington and Floyd paid $7.60 more toward his mother’s burial.

In 1942 the town appropriated $125.00 for the Poor Account. $248.52 was received from Harold Perkins “on Water”. What is this? Lucy Knowles died that year. Her care ($24.00) and burial ($162.00) round out the year.

We have found no annual reports for 1943, ‘44 and ’45; probably not printed because of WWII.

In 1946 the town appropriated $350.00 for Support of the Poor and did the same in 1947. In the latter year it paid $144.00 for rent for Margaret Socoby. Fi Again in 1948 the town paid $120.00 for Margaret Socoby to rent a home. Alexander also paid Princeton $150.18 from the Poor Account. That money was to support someone with Alexander residency.

The 1949 report has $48.00 rent for Margaret Socoby, $84.38 to Princeton and $150.00 for Burial, McArthur. In 1950 Alexander paid Princeton $83.39 for Town Poor. In 1951 the town raised only $50.00 for the Poor Account, but paid out $118.86 for Dan McArthur’s hospital care. It also paid $10.00 to Dr. Sears to visit Knowles and $50.00 toward Knowles burial. What Knowles?

In 1952 the town paid the State $311.04 of the $315.00 it had appropriated. It also paid Dr. Sears $50.00 for Dr. Wellington’s services. What were these?

1953 Calais Hospital was paid $46.85 for care of Barbara Bayliss. Bernard McDowell (store in Princeton) received $214.90 for the McArthur family. Next is a clue to past expenses. Under Aid to Dependent Children, Alexander paid to the State $207.36 on Leola McArthur Mothers’ Aid. Leola (Perkins) was Dan McArthur’s second wife and the family was living in Princeton after the war. In 1954 the only entry under Support of the Poor was $368.28 for Leola McArthur (Mother’s Aid).

Mothers Aid in 1955 was $502.20. Wood was supplied or more likely purchased from Charles White ($24.00) and Lyman Williams ($12.00) Mothers Aid in 1956 was $391.66. Carle Perkins ($27.00) and Lewis Frost ($10.00) likely were paid for wood. No expenses were listed for 1957.

In 1958 Mrs. Paul Crosby boarded at a cost of $481.25. Mothers Aid was $421.86. This was paid to the state. Don Donavan of Calais was paid $20.00 for groceries. The Poor Account for 1959 has more vague entries. Emma Henderson, Town poor $120.00; Doyle $8.45; Scott for flowers $10.00; Dwelley and McArthur family $208.47; traveling expenses $22.60 all confuse me as to what they represent. ADC $348.48 and Stephen Hunnewell Hospital $142.50 are clear. Steve’s brother Mell reimbursed the town.

In 1960 $519.12 went to ADC. Freeman McArthur’s family was helped by $233.20 and Avis Niles was hospitalized for $53.70. In 1961 $743.46 went to ADC. Ellis McArthur family needed $140.63 help and Avis Niles family needed $59.28. In 1962 the only item was ADC $1131.96. These ADC funds went to the state and apparently were distributed to needy families in Alexander.

In 1963 ADC was $910.44 and groceries worth $5.23 were purchased at George Edgerly’s Store In 1964 ADC was $948.60, George Edgerly was paid $102.26 for groceries and Calais Gas Co. was paid $26.30 for fuel. In 1965 ADC was $860.70 and $16.01 was paid to Harry Hamilton of Milltown for groceries.

1966 saw $755.82 go to the state for ADC. Alexander paid the Town of Oakfield $449.47 and the town of Mattawamkeag $35.00 for our residents who needed help there. Joel Crandall was helped with $75.00. In 1967 $1471.86 went to ADC and $59.40 to the Town of Oakfield. In 1968 ADC required $790.20, and money was paid to Archer’s Shell Station (Alexander), Wheatons’ Service Station (Princeton), Coulter’s Market (Woodland) and Treworgy’s Rexall Pharmacy (Calais) for those in need.

The 1969 report lists Support of Poor and Dependent Children; ADC cost Alexander $566.28 that year. We will stop here, even though to this day the town raises and spends money annually for support of those needing help.

A review of Alexander records indicates that usually the Selectmen were also the Overseers of the Poor. Often they are elected by different articles on the warrant, but sometimes both included on one article. For a few years in the late 1930s one article was used to elect the Assessors and Overseers of the Poor to do both jobs.

President Johnson’s Great Society programs changed the entire structure of supporting the poor. Various Federal programs took the lead in helping the less fortunate. State programs supported or complimented the national programs. Local aid became the source in the last resort for those in need. Alexander still annually elects Overseers of the Poor. For many years now names of those receiving town help have been confidential.

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”