About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


A number of years ago I accompanied friends to look at a house in rural Maine.  The village of North Parsonsfield is way off the beaten path but rich in architecture for more than one reason.

Arriving at the house we entered through the ell in the rear of the house.  I had no idea what we were about to see.
The Blazo-Leavitt house, circa 1900 (Wikipedia)

Similar view, circa 1990s
From the kitchen area in the ell a door was opened into the front hall.   I gasped and almost had to hold onto the door frame.  I had never seen such a beautiful hall!  It was spectacular with a sweeping hanging staircase.
Old photo showing front hall and door

 Looking toward the front door was the most beautiful fanlight with a paneled and grain painted front door flanked by sidelights.

Side hall intersects with main hall
The stairs themselves were grain painted and there was fantastic decorative painting throughout the house. 

One wall in the hall had a beautiful Federal period built-in with drawers; maybe a chest of drawers or perhaps a secretary recessed into the wall. 

A side hall intersected the main hall.  It led to another beautiful door topped by another beautiful fanlight, also with sidelights.

Throughout the house we viewed beautiful fireplaces and mantles.  More decorative painting, and lovely wallpapers further enhanced this spectacular house.  The moldings and intricately carved decoration took your breath away.

Grain painting on staircase
Over the next few weeks I returned to accompany others who were interested in purchasing the house but that was a long time ago.

The photos used in this post are mostly those I took sometime in the 1990s supplemented by others found on the Internet.  Many are more flawed than I had hoped for after being stuck together for twenty years.

A few days ago I was searching the Internet for a friend who wants to find a country house in Maine.  There it was!  Apparently the house was recently on the market again but  not for sale at this time.  It is unoccupied.

Detail of finest molding on staircase (Internet photo)
One of the front rooms in the house was particularly pleasing with beautiful wallpaper and enhanced by the best decorative grain painting on fireplace front and window seats as well as the beautiful grain painted doors.

Decorative panels above the window seat and
below the mantle.
I called my friend who had looked at it so many years ago as a possible buyer.  We got excited all over again reminiscing about this fabulous house.  She hit the Internet and much to our delight there was a lot to find, including a descendant of the original family, a poet, who has published a memoir of the house available on Amazon for about $6.00.  (Two of them sold yesterday as my friend and I both ordered a copy)

The house is well documented and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as it well should be.

The housewright who built the house was Thomas Eaton who also built Wallingford Farm in Kennebunkport and other important buildings.  The designs were from Asher Benjamin who published America's first pattern book, "The Country Builders' Assistant" in 1797 giving country architects unfamiliar with Boston, Salem or Newburyport the ability to create beautiful houses and churches far from the centers of influence at that time.

Beautiful pair of matched grain
painted doors

The formal name of this house is the Blazo-Leavitt house.  The ell was built in 1812 and the main part of the house in 1817.  The house is located at a rural intersection.  On the opposite side of the street is an old school, Parsonsfield Academy.
More grain painting on the doors in green room

As I worked on this post and scanned my old photos  I decided to take a look at the recent real estate photos online taken in September 2013.

Oh, no! Much to my horror, I am unable to find a trace of the fantastic decorative painted which adorned this house. The front staircase has clearly been painted.

How could anyone have the nerve to undo what was so beautiful and  remained intact for 150 years!  I am at a loss for words.

Whatever the case I will complete this post so all can appreciate what was.

Parlor when last descendants lived there  (Internet photo)

Built-in drawers resemble a piece of fine Federal furniture
Another room was a soft green.  There was grain painting beneath the mantle and more grain painting on the recessed window alcoves.  The molding surrounding the windows and chair rail is nothing short of spectacular.  The windows are fitted with pocket shutters that slide out of the wall.
Formal fireplace with grain painting, splendid moldings and pocket shutters. Granite lintel and old jamb hooks, columns
beneath the mantle

Imagine a room with built in grain painted drawers in the Federal taste with original hardware visible when the closet door is opened. 
There  are other rooms to be mentioned.  The bedrooms are numerous and each was decorated in a different color.  They are attractive but not nearly as charming now as in the very old pictures I have seen when there was wallpaper on the walls.  In this day and age many don't realize that beautiful wallpapers were correct in houses of the early to mid 19th century and beyond.  Perhaps it is out of favor today but there is a place for wallpaper in an antique house.

I have a recollection of a kitchen in the ell with a huge fireplace with a big granite lintel but have found no photo to support that memory.

Below are photos of a blue room, a red room and a salmon room.  The salmon is an especially good color for a Federal period house.
Typical Federal mantle with fine molding
that is not visible in the photo

The photo below is a close-up of the molding to show
the incredible detail in this fine woodwork.

Detail of fine molding inn blue room

The red room
Pretty salmon walls
The crowning glory of the second floor is the Palladian window above the front door, the window seat beneath and the graceful curve of the balustrade as it swoops around the head of the staircase. There is much fancy woodwork.
The house was built by William Blazo whose ancestors had come to America from Bordeaux, France.  It
passed down through numerous generations of the original family until 1973 when it was sold out of the family to others.  During this more that 150 year span of time, antiques and family heirlooms had remained as each generation left its mark on the house and its contents.

Although it is not in the hands of the original family any longer the descendants have not forgotten this wonderful house where they spent carefree summers in the country.  From the house they could see a distant mountain in New Hampshire, the foothills of the White Mountains.

Distant mountain is the view from the house
Parsonsfield is a very small rural town near the New Hampshire border.  It is a short distance west to Effingham, another town with beautiful Federal architecture.  On the east is the town of Limerick, ME about an hour from Portland

In addition to spectacular Federal period houses another reason to admire Parsonsfield is the evidence of numerous hand painted wall murals in the style of Rufus Porter but actually painted by his nephew, Jonathan Poor.  There are several houses with beautiful examples of his work.  He often signed his work and dated it leaving no doubt that he was the true artist and not Rufus Porter, the more familiar name.  The Blazo-Leavitt house does not have murals as far as I know but at least three other houses are lavishly decorated.  The artist who did the decorative grained painting may be unknown.

This house is unforgettable.  Some of the woodwork is reminiscent of the Ruggles house way Down East in Columbia Falls.  Here is my ecstatic friend twenty plus years ago practically jumping up and down as she admired the house, and with good reason.

Jumping for joy!
It is with sadness that I close this post with the feeling that a heavy hand has touched that house since I was there.  I not sure that any of the decorative painting, the crowning glory of that house, remains.  I hope I am wrong but if it still remains the most recent real estate person to handle the house didn't photograph it. I'm glad I have my old photos to remember it by.  And I am looking forward to the memoir that is coming my way in the mail from Amazon.

If there are readers out there who know what is going on with this house, please leave me a comment.

Thanks for reading.


PS  Here are some photos taken in Sept., 2913 from the Internet.  It is difficult to identify the rooms. You can see that the graining is missing.  It is now another huge house needing work.

Front room with no wallpaper or grain painting.  Floors sanded with no patina left. Cushions added to window seats
The staircase show no signs of decorative painting.  The door at the
rear of the hall appears enlarged.,  Black and white floor added
A formal room has become the kitchen with a tile floor higher than the hearth and the fireplace bricked up for a stove.

Post Script,   Feb. 3, 2014

My friend who saw this house years ago and I along with another friend took a road trip last Thursday and drove up to North Parsonsfield  (125 miles each way) to look around.  The house is empty and slightly forlorn, needing a paint job.  There is no for sale sign so its status is still unknown.  It is very rural but wonderfully serene and peaceful with a lovely view.  We saw neither cars or people.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


In my hometown in the hills of central Massachusetts there was a special old house.  It had a low hipped roof and a beautiful front door.  I think my first impression of the old house was an awareness of the horrible and unkempt condition.  As a farm it was at the end of it life but the sturdy house, though shabby would survive long after the barn and cows were gone.

In better days it had been known as Elm Farm but I’m not sure anyone remembered the time when it was dignified by such a pleasing name.  Long ago it was also known as the Fisher Farm.

The following was written in the 1940s.  "The house is a large square building with the customary hip roof.  It was built in 1791 by Thomas Fisher.  In front of the house is a long row of elm trees on either side of the highway, said to have been planted at the time the house was built, and the farm has always been known as Elm Farm. It is still owned and operated by descendants of the Fisher family."
This is an old polaroid photo probably from the 1970s.
Thomas Fisher (1755-1822) and his wife Hannah had about nine children.  The next owner of the farm was their son, Charles Fisher (1797-1885)  followed by his son, Lewis Sabin Fisher. (1847-1913)  Lewis Sabin Fisher was named after a local minister, Rev. Lewis Sabin.

The biographical history of Worcester County says this about the Fishers.
"Thomas Fisher was a farmer living midway between Baldwinville and Otter River. (Town of Templeton)  He was frequently chosen to serve the public in matters where good judgement and integrity were required and was a prominent citizen in early part of the century. (19th)  His son, Charles Fisher, lived upon the same farm and likely possessed the public confidence."

There is interesting history involving Lewis Sabin Fisher.

Charles and his son Lewis apparently were interested in baseball.  Charles had obtained from Abner Doubleday (an early figure in baseball) plans for a baseball field and Lewis had a bat.  This bat now can be seen at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  It is the oldest known baseball bat in their collection!

Originally the house was set back more from the road but the road was relocated leaving a corner of the house tantalizing close to the road just tempting a vehicle to collide with the corner and the inevitable happened. It was hit by a pickup truck that clipped the house.  By this time the last descendants of the original family had moved on and others lived there as the house deteriorated badly.  The corner of the house now had  conspicuous damage.
Demolition of the Thomas Fisher house, 1984

I had long since recognized the beauty of this house as an antique and often had expressed my concern for it when visiting relatives or friends in my old home town.  I would always reiterate my interest in the old place.   People are apt to think you are weird or just silly when you see beauty in an old wreck of a house.  But beauty doesn't have to mean perfect condition just as good condition doesn't mean a house is beautiful.
Damage to the corner visible where truck hit the house
One day thirty years ago I paid a visit to my hometown about a week before the 4th of July.  A relative who just happened to be the fire chief snickered as he said to me, “Prudy, you’d better hurry up if you’re going to save the old house. It is going to be bulldozed this week.”  Oh, no!  He went on to say that the town fathers wanted it gone and gone fast.  There was a transformer just outside the house.  If kids set fire to the house on the 4th of July and that transformer was involved it would plunge a large area into darkness.  The house had to go.  Time had run out.

There is a beautiful door and fan light behind the
particle board.
He went on to explain that the only reason that it was still standing, of all things, was that the town could not find a landfill that was willing to take the debris!  What an awful dilemma for what had been a great house.  How could it come to such an undignified end?
My son, Bob, surveys the demolition and the side door with transom

I knew what I had to do.  I asked if I could use the phone.  It was before the days of cell phones.  I was handed a phone.  A quick call was made to someone I knew who took down old houses and sold them ready for reassembling at a new location.

This man immediately answered the phone.  He was interested!  He would call in another crew from Connecticut for help so that they could get the job done faster.  They would be there in the morning!

I also called the chair of the Historical Commission and the Selectmen hoping they could negotiate an extension.  The chair of the historical commission (the father of my friend growing up) was sympathetic but felt powerless to do much.  The town fathers were adamant and through with extensions.  Another call to the selectmen, none of whom  knew me because I had left my hometown more than twenty five years earlier.  I had no influence with them.  They were not interested.  To complicate matters it is my belief that the man in charge of demolition was under contract to have it removed before the 4th of  July.

Good news!  Another phone call the following morning confirmed that the crews had arrived and were dismantling the house as fast as they could.   It was Monday morning. They worked frantically all week with the heavy equipment poised to demolish the house.

Sadly, there wasn’t time for the crew to work slowly or methodically so that the house could be photographed or numbered for re-erecting at a new location.  After a few frantic days there was only a little bit more work to do but the bulldozer was revving up. 

The salvage crew had to leave behind  a few beams before abandoning the task to flee the advancing demolition crew.

All that is left of the parlor and the panels above.  The projecting fireplace with paneling
indicates that the house was transitional and not quite a full blown Federal.
Most of the house had been secured and loaded onto the trucks headed for the salvage yard where the pieces of the old house were made available for many restorers who incorporated the recycled  pieces of Elm Farm into their own restoration.

I was sad that there wasn’t time enough to make the  house available in its entirety as a restoration for a new owner but at least only the dregs went to the landfill.  It was a close call and the outcome not perfect but better than what might have happened had the “chief” not tried to poke fun at my serious commitment to save an old house! 

My commitment to saving houses has not abated and I’m grateful that I happened into town where hardly any one even knew me anymore and was able to play a role in that sad situation even if only partially successful.

While looking for other pictures I found these pictures taken the week it was torn down.  I had almost forgotten this event of thirty years ago.  It is only one of so many similarly sad stories.  Please don't let this happen in your home town!

Thanks for visiting.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Recently I was working on a house history ( my real occupation) and had written considerable history about an 18th century house, the subject of my report.  Included in the report was some background on the history of the community, West Newbury, Massachusetts.  I included brief stories of the 1727 earthquake, the late 18th century tornado and mention of notable people and industries in the history of the town.  The report was finished when I remembered an important story that needed to be included...the story of Indian Hill Farm and its owner, Ben: Perley Poore. (the colon after Ben is preferred)  How could I have overlooked Indian Hill?

Indian Hill undated but extent of building evident
As I asked friends and associates, none of them really knew anything about Indian Hill.  I couldn't believe that this place had fallen into such obscurity.

Benjamin was born in 1820.  He attended Governor Dummer Academy, traveled to Europe with his affluent parents and became a journalist and newspaper man spending 30 years in Washington, covering Congress, associating with all of the players in Washington during those years.  It was in Scotland with his parents that he visited Abbottsford House and conceived the idea of building a great house.

A young handsome Ben: Perley Poor
Each summer he returned to Indian Hill where he pursued his passion for antiques and salvaging house parts from notable houses being demolished. Mind you, we are talking the 1840s, 50s and 60s!

He assembled a huge collection including paneling from the very important Province house in Boston, (demolished in 1850s) waincotting from the John Hancock house (1863) and staircase from the Tracy mansion in Newburyport.  This was just for starters.

He continued to build at Indian Hill incorporating old building parts and assembling fabulous, imaginative rooms to house his collections.

His diverse collections included Martha Washington's set of dishes and chairs from Mount Vernon along with many odds and ends from the White House from several administrations.  He even acquired the piece of carpet on which Lincoln stood while being administered the oath of office and the desk used by John Quincy Adams in the Hall of Representative from which he fell and died.  The amazing list goes on and on.

Simultaneously he developed spectacular gardens. ( See Alice Morse Earle, "Old Time Gardens", 1916) This wonderfully enchanting creation of house and garden did not go unnoticed.  He entertained many who were spellbound by this incredible house with many nooks and crannies.  One nook was so small that portly President Taft was wedged into a space and became stuck!  (This was long after Poore's death in 1887.)

Ben: Perley Poore married and had two children; Emily and Alice.  Emily died at age 29 unmarried.
Alice married in 1880 and had one son, Ben: Perley Poore Moseley born in 1881.  Alice died in 1883 at the age of 28.

As I wrote this post I remembered that a collector friend had won a lapdesk from the Poore family at an auction many years ago.  A quick phone call confirmed that the lapdesk  belonged to Alice.  It contained a braid of her hair, a lock of her baby's hair, her Bible, a tintype of Alice and a list of her wedding presents! What a strange post script to this story.  Before I publish this post I may be able to scan Alice's picture.

Ben: Perley Poor attracted attention when he made a bet with an associate.  He was so sure he would win the bet he pledged that if he lost the bet he would walk to Boston pushing a wheelbarrow full of Indian Hill apples and deliver it in person to the other man.  He lost the bet and for two and one half days trudged along pushing his wheelbarrow toward Boston with its cargo; a barrel of apples.  Throngs lined the way as he arrived in Boston, some claimed as many as 30,000.  He was much admired as a "man of his word" even though his opponent had offered to let him off the hook.  The Wheelbarrow Polka, published in Boston in 1856 commemorated the event.
Published in Boston in 1856
His story seems to have fallen into obscurity but his influence can still be seen lingering long after his death.

Henry Davis Sleeper was so inspired by Poore that he began the creation of Beauport on Gloucester Harbor, now owned by Historic New England and called the most fascinating house in America. Subsequently Henry Francis Dupont followed suit in the development of Winterthur in Dover, Delaware having been so impressed by Sleeper's collection of Americana that he hired Sleeper to assist him in his collecting and decorating..
Indian Hill in 1950 at about 100 years old,  looking less manicured than in earlier years
To think that Major Ben: Perley Poore was collecting antiques as early as the 1840s and salvaging house parts wherever old houses were being demolished fascinates me.  He was many years ahead of his time!  It was well into the 20th century before Wallace Nutting, William Sumner Appleton, Francis Henry Dow, Fiske Kimball, Joseph Chandler,Norman Isham and others, now considered the pioneers of preservation and  antiques collecting, came onto the scene.  All of this long after the death of Ben: Perley Poore.
Ben: Perley Poor in old age
Indian Hill and the collection was given to SPNEA, now Historic New England, in 1939.  Some actually disapproved of Ben: Perley Poore because of his eclectric streak.  He mixed and matched house parts and furniture to satisfy his artistic side in creating his interesting spaces.  He altered or cut down panels to make them fit much to the frustration of later researchers trying to measure his panels as they endeavored to piece together from his recreated rooms what these rooms had  looked like in their original settings.

In 1948 SPNEA returned the property to Edward S. Moseley, a great grandson of Poore.  Perhaps the immense size of the property and the collection overwhelmed the Society.  Without a large endowment it could have been a huge drain on their budget.  A major reason, however, was that due to WWII and gas rationing, very few people were able to make the trip to West Newbury to see the property.  Most people didn't have the luxury during those years to use their cars for pleasure, saving their rationing stamps for necessary travel.

Nevertheless, Poore set the stage for those that followed. Perhaps he wasn't the purist that later researchers would have liked but  he was the original collector, restorer and antiquer. It is sad that the memory of this fabulous creation has fading and his influence hardy recognized in the 21st century.  Can you even begin to imagine the objects that he considered antique in the 1840?  Most of what we now call antiques hadn't even been dreamed of or yet produced!  He deserves credit for his foresight.

It makes me so sad to tell you that in August of 1959 Indian Hill burned, a tragic and incalculable loss. A fragment of the house was restored and is privately owned but it could never be the same.

In its prime Indian Hill Farm consisted of 400 acres of land.  The house was an assemblage of an unbelievable eighty rooms according to tradition! Today, public records describes the remaining piece of the land as just under four acres with a total of nine rooms.  The footprint of what is left still demonstrates the intricacy of its construction.
Click To Enlarge
The intricately assembled footprint is still apparent 
You can read more about him in "The Antiquers, Elizabeth Stillinger, Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.

In December 1908 the magazine, American Homes and Gardens, did a nice story with a lot of pictures. Here is the lengthy link to the story.  The details of the Indian Hill Farm are almost too much to grasp.


I hope you can open this link (or copy and paste) to see for yourselves this magical place that we can only see through the eyes of the magazine photographer but never with our own eyes.  Perhaps this post will even breath new life into the story of this almost forgotten man and the monument to his life that he left behind.

Indian Hill as seen today in public record.  Still charming
but with only nine rooms; many, many rooms have been lost.




This  post is a continuation from Sally Bramhall, Part I.  The story was not written by me but was actually written in 1942 by Stella King White of Houlton, Maine and submitted to "Downeast Ancestry" in 1979 by Barbara Morse of Springvale, Maine, a descendant of Sally.  The magazine is no longer in existence and Barbara Morse is deceased.  See "Sally Bramhall, Part I.

Their route led them along the sandy Massachusetts coast, through Duxbury, Marshfield, Hingham and Quincy to Boston, a very good road, it was called in those days. They stopped several days in Boston to visit more relatives and to "see the sights". Boston then had a population of 25,000 and held much of interest. There was Old North Church, built in 1723 and made famous by Paul Revere’s ride; Faneuil Hall, built in 1742, and, the Old State House, built in 1748. Sally never forgot the interesting things she saw in Boston and they gave her much to tell her grandchildren long afterwards.

Leaving Boston, the young Bramhalls chose the Newburyport Turnpike as the best road..still considered the best because it is the shortest highway from Boston to Maine. Twenty miles more took them to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an important city settled in 1623 and by 1803 having many splendid houses. As there was no bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery at that time (not until 1822), Sally and Sylvanus crossed the Piscataqua River into Maine by the ferry which ran regularly from Portsmouth wharf to the wharf in Kittery at the end of Love Lane.

"Old Ketterie" was no mean city, but a place of importance in early days. Settled in 1623, it was the oldest town in the District of Maine. Our young people took a little time when they reached Kittery to ride around and see the homes of the Pepperells, the Sparhawks, the Cutts and the Campernownes....all still standing (in 1942)..the fame of which had reached even to Massachusetts.

From Kittery, the travellers left the sea and turned directly north to Berwick. This was a thriving town (then undivided) of about 4,000 inhabitants, with a flourishing academy and some fine old houses. But Sally loved best to tell her grandchildren various old tales of witchcraft she heard along the way, and about the Witch Trot Road upon which she rode into Berwick and down the town’s oldest thoroughfare.

From Berwick the road would up through woods to Sanford and Springvale, two villages only two miles apart, Springvale then being the larger. They easily found a good tavern at Springviale and spent the night. Did Sally Bramhall have dreams that night that 138 years later, on April 14, 1941, another Sally Bramhall and her brother Curtis, lineal descendants of hers, would arrive in that town, this time to make their home? "Such stuff as dreams are made of."

The next morning they pushed on through the woods and vales of Gray and Gorham. Gorham was quite a town, even then, having been settled more than 60 years and having, the old chronicles boast, "a white Congregational Church." As they rode farther and farther away from the sea, they found more woods, fewer clearings and smaller settlements. Sally loved the Maine woods, so new to her.

At last, after a journey of 200 miles or so which took them two weeks, they reached Hebron and were received with open arms. The had had no untoward adventures along the way. No bears nor wolves had troubled them, nor Indians attacked them; they had only, as Sally always told it, "a lovely ride through the woods."

Sally and Sylvanus spent a happy summer with their Richmond relatives..Uncle Eliab and Aunt Hannah, Grandfather Henry and Grandmother, Sarah, and 10 or 12 cousins. The young people enjoyed most of all the cousins near their own age. The cousin nearest Sally was Israel, only 25, but already a widower. He had married June 4, 1800 Chloe Crooker of Hebron, but she had died in childbirth that spring leaving in his care two small children, little Chloe, born Sept. 5, 1801 and the baby, Israel, born May 10, 1803 and scarcely two months old when the Bramhalls came.

They were all living together in the big house and the whole family united in taking care of the children left motherless, in addition to helping with the rest of the work connected with a large house and farm...the knitting, spinning, weaving, rug hooking and braiding, quilt piecing, rag carpet weaving, plus the churning, cheese making and candle dipping. Sally, always an energetic body (so my mother told me) and "brought up to work", joined in the activities of a large family and the care of the little children. She soon came to love them, especially the baby, and their father, too.

When the end of summer came, Sally told her brother to go back without her; she was going to take care of the baby a while longer...he needed her...then she would go home. He went but his sister did not, for the next winter (in 1804) Sally and Israel were married. Accustomed as she was to the easier life of her girlhood home, nevertheless, Sally courageously took up the vicissitudes of a pioneer life in the District of Maine.

In the years that followed eleven children were born to them...eight daughters and three sons. The first daughter was named Sarah and the second Hannah, for Israel’s mother. If you look up our Richmond family line, you will be struck with the persistency with which the names of Sarah (or Sally) and Hannah alternate in each generation for more than a century...from 1723 to 1835.

Ireael and Sally moved from Hebron to Dixfield; when, we don’t know. In 1815, Israel’s name and that of his brother, Eliab Richmond Jr. (seven years younger and married to Sarah Bullen of Hebron) appear on the old Oxford County records as each having bought "100 acres of land, more or less" in Dixfield on Severy Hill. That, so far as we know, is where Sally and Israel always lived thereafter.

(The names of Israel Richmond and his brother, Capt. Eliab Richmond, Jr., are listed as serving in the War of 1812 from Dixfield)

The old records also tell of Israel drowning August 20, 1823, while fording the Androscoggin River at Dixfield...only this and nothing more. Thus, Sally was suddenly made a widow at age 44, with a family of 11 children..her two step-children and nine of her own, the youngest only 15 months old. Two of her children had died young.

Sally kept on bravely, even cheerfully, until all the children had married and had homes of their own. One can only guess at the loneliness and hardships of that period of Sally’s life. After 20 years of widowhood, in July of 1843, she married William Worcester of Dixfield, who was five years older. He lived about 10 years, then left Sally again a widow.

She lived to be 81 years old, surrounded by children and grandchildren who loved to hear her tell stories of her past. She would tell of playing with other children around Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims had landed, and of walking in the sand, letting the waves of the Atlantic Ocean dash up over her feet. She would speak of long ago Sunday afternoons when she wandered among her ancestors’ graves in the old cemetery on the hill overlooking Plymouth harbor. Then she would tell them about her ride via horseback from Massachusetts to Maine on a pillion, with her arms around her brother’s waist  to hold herself on, recalling all the little incidents along the way and the things she saw; the trees, birds and wildflowers of the Maine woods. Then, my mother told me, she would often close a story of Plymouth by saying, "I always intended to go back again some time, but (shaking her head sadly) I shall never see Pymouth again." She never did.

Sally died December 23, 1860 and lies buried in the old Severy Hill graveyard beside Israel Richmond, her first husband and first love.

The resting  place of Sally and Israel Richmond

Here is the letter my grandmother wrote to Stella King White as she prepared this story of Sally.

                                                                                                                Feb. 18, 1932

My Dear Cousin Stella,

Your letter came and I read it with  much pleasure and will try to answer your questions.  

My father was Zebulon Bruyant's son, his mother was Desire Richmond, a sister to Israel Richmond, who married for his first wife, Chloe Crooker; for his second wife, Sally Bramhall, whom I remember well.  She later married William Worcester of Dixfield.  Israel Richmond drowned in the Androscoggin River in Dixfield where he lived and where his daughters found their husbands.  White, Morse, Hall and Severy were all Dixfield men.  

Eliab Richmond's oldest children were born in Plymouth, Mass.  I have no date of the time he came to Maine but as near as we can think it was at the close of the Revolutionary War.  He brought his father, Henry, with him and he was buried in the graveyard near my old home, the house Eliab built in 1798.

Eliab was the first to break ground in the town...he was a nice old man.  My mother lived in the house with the old people and she liked him very much.  His widow lived eighteen years after his death. She left quite a property which was willed to her descendants.

My father bought the (Richmond) farm and there were 65 (this number may be inflated but it was many) heirs who had to sign the deeds, the Dixfield women (Sally's children) among them.  I don't remember how much each got.  (each couple received $219.96)

I will be 94 in August.  I am an old woman in years but keep young in many ways. I must close but hope to hear from you again.

Your Cousin,

Myra Bryant Paine

It is so easy for stories such as this to get lost. It is also amazing that this letter from my grandmother was found in the Maine Historical Society or Archives and forwarded to me unsolicited.  I'm so glad to have this history and I hope you enjoyed the "Saga of Sally Bramhall".


It has been called to my attention that the rug hooking in the early 19th century mentioned in the story was not accurate.  Rug hooking came into popularity at a later date, more toward the mid 19th century.  In 1942 facts were not as easy to verify as they are today.  We all are apt to fall into the trap of relying on our interpretation of what it was like long before our time.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014



In a previous post I mentioned the coincidences that occur in the search for ancestors and pursuit of genealogy.  The following story is another example of something that occurred right out of the blue.  It is discoveries like this that inspire the endless searching for ancestors and their families.

One day, maybe twenty years ago, I went to a city about an hour away from home to meet a prospective real estate buyer.  Having allowed plenty of time I found myself there a little too early.  I knew that this city's library was a great place to do genealogical research so decided to kill a little time there while I waited to go to my appointment.

Browsing brought me to some magazines called "Down East Ancestry."  Knowing that "down east" refers to the state of Maine I checked the index for Richmond,one of  the names of my Maine ancestors.  There was Eliab Richmond in the index, my great great great grandfather and builder of the house that my grandmother and my father were born in.

Checking the page indicated I found a story called the "Saga of Sally Bramhall."  Who in the world was Sally Bramhall and what did she have to do with my Richmond relatives and ancestors?  Clearly, I had never heard of her.

I soon found out and it gave me goose bumps.  The story chronicles the journey of Sally Bramhall as she made her way from Plymouth, MA with her brother in 1803 to visit my ancestors, her relatives, in the same house where my father grew up.  The story was written by her great granddaughter with input (as I found out later) from my grandmother, Myra, to whom you have already been introduced.  It was submitted to the magazine many years later and here it is.  I hope you will enjoy the tale of her adventure that I will post in two parts.

(From Downeast Ancestry Magazine - 1979)
"The following story was written in 1942 by Stella King White of Houlton, Maine. She was born in 1867, was a great granddaughter of Sally (Bramhall) Richmond Worcester, wrote articles for the Lewiston Journal, and was author of a history of Caribou, Maine. We received the story from Mrs. Barbara White Morse, 93 Main St., Springvale, Maine. Her father and Stella were first cousins."

by Stella King White

To begin: Sally Bramhall was a descendant of the George Bramhall who came from England to the Plymouth Colony in 1665, went to Dover, New Hampshire in 1670, then to Casco, now Portland, Maine in 1678. Here George bought a 400 acre farm stretching from Vaughan’s Bridge up over the hill now called Bramhall Hill where the Maine General Hospital is located. Unfortunately, he was killed in a fight with Indians on the Deering place, now called Deering’s Oaks, where a small monument commemorates this fight. George Bramhall’s name is among those inscribed on this marker as one of those killed Sept. 21, 1689.

After George’s death, his widow, with three sons...George, Joseph and Joshua..and one daughter, went back, probably in 1690, to Plymouth Colony. The son, Joshua, had a son, Sylvanus, born in 1712, who had a son George, born in 1745. This last George...a great-grandson of the first George--married in 1766, Zilpha Richmond born in 1749 to Henry Richmond (and Sarah Washburn)  of Plymouth.

George Bramhall and wife, Zilpha (Richmond), had two sons and four daughters, one of whom was Sarah. She was always called Sally, except in the family Bible at her birth and on her gravestone at her death. She was born Sept. 9, 1779.
This is the only picture I have of Sally.  It was photo-
copied from the magazine story in "Down East Ancestry".
After his Revolutionary War service, Zilpha’s brother, Eliab Richmond, born in Plymouth in 1751, had emigrated in 1781 to the District of Maine. He took with him, his wife, the former Hannah Holmes of Plymouth, his three young children, and his parents, Henry and Sarah Richmond. Henry was also a Revolutionary War veteran. A man of 53 at the time, he was exceedingly worn with six years of constant service, including the winter of 1778 spent with Washington at Valley Forge.

The Richmonds were taking part in a great trek from Massachusetts to western Maine that began after the peace treaty and was encouraged by the General Court of Massachusetts, which offered Revolutionary War soldiers liberal grants of land "on the eastern frontier." Many men came on foot, followed by womenfolk and household goods in oxcarts. Miserable, indeed, were the roads just "grubbed out" through the woods; but one hundred soldiers and their families come to the Town of Hebron alone, shortly after the Revolution. Eliab had bought, a year previous to his coming, 100 acres in Hebron for "the promise of 150 bushels of wheat".. very reasonable, we should say, perhaps because he was among the "first to break ground", as the old annals say.

Plymouth home of Henry Richmond, Sally's grandfather, built in 1769.
The house is located at 125 Boot Pond Road, Plymouth, MA
As time passed on, Eliab prospered, being "noted for his industry" (quoting from the old chronicles.) Rapidly increasing population meant speedy clearing of farms and building of good homes. Eliab bought another 100 acres in 1798 for $218.00...still seems reasonable...and built for his family a large a comfortable home very nearly at the top of the hill now called Bryant’s Hill, a sightly location in what is now called East Oxford.
Eliab and his wife began to look back longingly to the old home in Plymouth and kindred left behind.

The house the Richmonds built in Maine where Sally and her brother went
 to spend the summer of 1803.  (see also post called "My Grandmother")
Considering a journey back home an impossibility with the many cares of a large family and farm, Eliab wrote his sister, Zilpha, urging her and her husband, or some of their children, to come spend a summer with them. Roads were improving and he felt they should renew old family ties broken for more than 20 years.

Zilpha and George Bramhall’s daughter, Sally, being the most courageous, was the one who most wanted to go, so she was selected to take what seemed to the rest of the family a perilous journey, for it would have to be taken on horseback, much of the way through woods likely to be infested with bears and wolves and perhaps, Indians. But Sally Bramhall feared no foe, neither man nor beast. She inherited the courage of her Pilgrim forefathers who crossed the stormy Atlantic in 1620, of those ancestors who fought the Indians at Casco in 1689, and of those two who battled six long years for American independence.

Sally’s brother Sylvanus volunteered to go with her, and, after much discussion , the journey was decided upon. They spent a few days visiting relatives in nearby towns of Taunton, Middleboro and Bridgewater to bid them goodbye. They started out one bright morning in June of 1803 after many fond farewells and assurances of their return at the end of the summer. They had been given a good horse with saddle for Sylvanus, and pillion (a cushion fastened behind the saddle) for Sally. The Bramhall were in comfortable circumstances and sent their young people away well provided for. Their mother had given them plenty of food to eat along the way and their father plenty of money to pay for lodging and meals at village taverns along the way.

The story of their three week trek through Massachusetts and Maine seeing new sights along the way will continue in the next installment to follow.

Sally's brother, Sylvanus Bramhall, was a silversmith in Plymouth.  Learning this caught my attention because I have a fondness for antique silver.  I began my search where I begin all of my searches...at Ebay.com!  On several occasions I have hit paydirt so that now I have a nice selection of coin silver spoons made by Sylvanus Bramhall in the early 19th century.  Here are my spoons marked S. Bramhall.
My collection  of coin silver spoons made by
silversmith, Sylvanus Bramhall of Plymouth
This is the touchmark on the back of the spoons; S. BRAMHALL.

The mark of Sylvanus Bramhall of Plymouth

What comes next is the real heart of this story so please check back soon.