Archive for the ‘Lansil’ Category

The City of Bangor vs. Asa P. Lansil – 1863


asa paine


My 3rd g-grandfather, Asa Paine Lansil, the fifth known child of Charles V. Lansil (Lancel/Lanselle) and Ruth Paine, was born 17 Oct 1812 in Bucksport, Hancock, Maine.   He married Betsey Turner Grout, daughter of Amos Grout and Rachael Couillard, 2 November 1834, in Bucksport.  Asa, a Cooper, settled in Bangor, Maine, with his wife and six (or perhaps seven) children, where they remained until about 1871, at which time the family relocated to Boston Massachusetts. 

I have written of Asa in the past but not of his noteworthy case as a defendant at the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine against the City of Bangor (the plantiff) in 1863.

Asa, purchased land on the corner of Maine and Lincoln Streets in Bangor for $500 from Wiggins Hill, a merchant, on 15 Dec 1848 (book 192, page 375).  The land is described as:

Beginning at the corner of Maine and Lincoln Street, hence running Westerly on the line of Lincoln Street 100 feet thence at right angles with Lincoln Street Northerly about 70 feet to the dividing lines between said lot and land owned by Thomas Curtis and others as divided by George W Pickering and others, hence Easterly on said line to Maine Street hence Southerly on Maine Street to the point began at more or less.

Lincoln Street Purchase

On 28 Jan 1851 Asa bought land (book 212/page 140) on Buck Street for $500 from his brother James (formerly known as Lincoln Street, lot #8) which Martha Lansil (his brother’s wife) had previously purchased of Wiggins Hill (book 150/page 554). It measured 70 feet on Buck Street and 107 feet deep, per an 1844 survey by Gilman.   Asa later sold this parcel to Joshua Miller on 2 Feb 1853 (book 231/ page 341).

On 1 May 1852, Asa purchased land adjoining to that purchased in 1848 (known as lot #2) on Lincoln Street from Wiggins Hill (book 248/page 470) for $150.  It was an additional 69 1/2 feet by 500 feet.

Lansil land

On this land there was a swale (a low tract of land, that is moist or marshy).  When Lincoln Street was constructed in 1834, the water flowed in gutters down the street until it got to Asa’s lot where it flowed over his property in larger amounts than it had previously.  Asa add fill to the lot, in 1852, to stop the water.  The Bangor Street Commissioner, without town approval began to dig a drain; Asa finished it himself. Later, the drain fell into disrepair.  Asa choose not to repair it, the City of Bangor (after giving Asa notice), repaired and enlarged the drain, then took Asa to court to recover $43 in expenses.

The appeal went to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s role is to decide on questions of law that arise when a case is appealed from a trial court. Opinions are published and become binding on all the (Maine) courts when they adjudicate similar disputes. The Lansil decision is still cited in cases today.

In the Lansil case, the Court issued the following opinion:

“The owner of land has a legal right to fill it up so as to interrupt the flow of surface water over it, whether flowing from a highway, or any adjoining land. Nor does the fact, that the land filled up was a swale (a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy), make any difference in the owner’s rights, provided no natural watercourse is obstructed. If, in filling up his lot, the owner construct a drain for the flow of surface water from the highway, which had been accustomed to flow across his lot, and afterwards allow the drain to become obstructed, and it is repaired by the town, the latter can maintain no action to recover the expense of such repairs. Such a drain is not a “private drain,” within the meaning of § 12 of c. 16 of the Revised Statutes”.

Case, under § 12, c. 16, of E. S., to recover the amount expended by the plaintiffs in the repair of a drain.

The evidence, affecting the questions of law raised, tended to show that the drain in question was from Lincoln street, through the defendant’s lot, and another lot, to a drain made by the city; that the defendant’s lot was formerly a swale, and the surface water flowed across it, but there was no natural watercourse on it; that Lincoln street was constructed in 1834, and, after that, the surface water flowed in gutters down the street, till it came to the defendant’s lot, and then passed off across his lot, in greater quantities than before the construction of the street; that, in 1852, the defendant filled up his lot so as to prevent the water from flowing from the street over it; and, thereupon, the street commissioner, without authority from the city, dug the drain and the defendant finished it, and the water from the street had passed off through it, until recently; that, the defendant failing to repair the drain after proper notice, the plaintiffs had repaired and enlarged it; and this action was brought to recover $43, the expenses incurred.

The presiding Judge instructed the jury, that it appeared by the testimony that there was a low swale on the lot of defendant, over which the water from the land in the vicinity naturally flowed; that, if defendant bought the lot under these circumstances, he had no legal right to fill up the lot and obstruct the natural flow of the water, and thus cause it to flow back into the street, and upon adjoining owners; that, if defendant filled up his lot, he was bound to make a suitable drain to carry away the water, so as, not to injure the highway and adjoining proprietors; that, if defendant made the drain under these circumstances, it was a private drain, which he was bound to keep in repair, and, if he neglected to do so, and in consequence of such neglect, the highway was injured, the plaintiffs, after due notice, could themselves repair such drain and recover the expense of the defendant in this action.

The defendant (inter alia) requested the presiding Judge to instruct the jury, that, if the plaintiffs duly laid out and constructed Lincoln street, and the water flowed down the drains of such street to the defendant’s lot which abutted upon said street, and a drain across the defendant’s lot was needed to drain the water from the street, the defendant was under no legal obligation to construct such*drain, but the law provided another remedy to secure the construction of the drain, and, if defendant, without permit from the proper authorities, and through a misapprehension of his legal rights and obligations, constructed such drain, such construction would not of itself constitute it a private drain.

The presiding Judge refused to give the requested instructions, but did instruct the jury that, if more water was brought by the drains on Lincoln street down to the defendant’s lot than naturally flowed there, the jury would deduct from the expenses of repair in like proportion.

The jury returned a verdict for plaintiffs of twenty-seven dollars, and stated, in answer to an inquiry from the Court, that they reduced the damages, because more water was brought to the defendant’s lot by the construction of the street than formerly flowed there.

asa vs city bangor verdict.png

The defendant excepted [objected].

new case asa.png

W. H. McCrillis, for defendant.

A. Q. Wakefield, for plaintiffs.

The opinion of a majority of the Court was drawn up by

Davis, J.—By our statute of 1821, c. 121, copied from the Massachusetts Act of 1797, a person needing a drain “for his cellar,” or for other purposes, could construct it, upon his own premises, to the street; and then, “by the consent and under the direction of the selectmen,” he, either alone, or with others, might extend it across or along the street, to some suitable place of discharge. If there were several owners, it was a “common sewer.” But, whether owned by one or more, it was a private drain.

Such drains were entirely different and distinct from gutters, made as part of streets, to drain off the surface water. Such gutters had always been made, under the general power and duty to open the streets and keep them in repair.

Unless by some city charters or by-laws, no public sewers, for the accommodation of the inhabitants, were authorized by law, until 1844. All such sewers, though constructed under and along the streets, were private property. And no change has ever been made in the law, making such drains other than private property. Many such may be found in all our cities and large towns.

By c. 94 of the laws of 1844, the municipal authorities were, for the first time, empowered to locate and construct public drains, for the common use of such adjacent proprietors as, for a stipulated price, desired to connect private drains therewith. These public sewers were to be located, either under the streets, or, if necessary, through the lands of any person, who was to be compensated therefor. The proceedings of the location are, in many respects, like the proceedings in locating streets.

As cities and towns were only authorized, and not required, to construct public drains, the sewerage of our cities has been, and still is, to a large extent, by private drains. These have, many of them, been made across or along the streets. As they were liable to get out of repair, there had always been a provision by which any owner could repair a “common” sewer, at the expense of all.

But it was found that, in some cases, none of the owners would repair such drains; and that, by their want of repair, the streets across or along which they were constructed, were thereby made unsafe for the public travel. And therefore, by c. 77, § 9, of the laws of 1854, the street commissioner of the city of Portland was authorized, in any such case, to repair the defective “private drain ;” and the owners were made liable to the city for the expense of such repairs. This special statute was made general, by R. S., c. 16, § 12.

The action before us was brought under this provision of the statute.

Was the drain repaired by the city in this case such a drain as is contemplated by the statute?

It is quite obvious that it was not a public drain, or sewer, within the meaning of the statute. It was neither located, nor constructed, as such. None of the provisions relating to sewerage by public drains, to be made and owned by the city, for the use of the abutters on the streets, are applicable to it.

In discussing the question whether it was a “private drain,” it is contended, in behalf of the city, that the defendant, in 1852, had no right to fill up his house lot, which was at the lowest point of a swale crossed by Lincoln street, so as to prevent the water flowing down the gutters either way, during a storm, from passing off over his lot, as before it was filled up.

His right to fill up his lot, depended on the question whether there had been a natural watercourse across the lot before Lincoln street was made. That street was made in 1834. No right to flow water across it had therefore been acquired, by prescription or otherwise, in 1852, unless there had been a watercourse there before 1834. If there had not been a watercourse there, though it was low, swampy land, and, with the adjacent lots, had been overflowed at certain seasons of the year, he had the right to fill it up.

A natural watercourse “consists of bed, banks, and water; yet the water need not flow continuously; and there are many watercourses that are sometimes dry. There is, however, a distinction to be taken in law, between a regular flowing stream of water, which at certain seasons is dried up, and those occasional bursts of water, which in times of freshet, or melting of ice and snow, descend from the hills, and inundate the country.” Angell on Watercourses, 5th ed., § 1. *

In accordance with this definition, it has been held, that, “when there is no watercourse, or stream of water, one cannot claim a right of drainage, or flow of water, from off his land, upon and through the land of another, merely because his land is higher than that of the other, and slopes towards it, so that the water which falls in rain upon it would naturally run over the surface in that direction.” Luther v. Winnissimet Co., 9 Cush., 171.

Whether there had been a watercourse was a question for the jury. If there had not been, then the defendant had the right to fill up his lot; and he was under no obligation to make any drain, or permit the city to make one.

But, if there had been a watercourse, though the defendant had no right to fill it up, still this action could not be maintained. The statute applies only to a “private drain,” made strictly for private use, which the owners may keep open, or fill up, at their option, leaving the street in good repair. But a watercourse is private property only in a restricted sense. The owner of the land through which it flows has no right to fill it up, to divert the water from the land below, nor to turn it back upon the land above. For so doing, he is liable to indictment, or to an action on the case at commonlaw, for the damage caused by the detention or flowage of the water. Calais v. Dyer, 7 Maine, 155.

But the action given by the statute, for the expense of repairing, cannot be applied to a watercourse, even if it is used for a drain. The language is clearly applicable only to drains and sewers which are strictly private property. The city can have no right to use such drains. The owners cannot be under obligation to keep such drains open for the benefit of the city. If the street gutters were opened into them, they would no longer be private, but public.

It is clear that the drain in this case is not such as the statute refers to, as a “private drain.” If it was a watercourse, and the defendant was bound to keep it open, the remedy must be sought in a different action, not for the expense of repairing, but for the damage caused by obstructing it. The verdict must be set aside, and a new trial granted.

Appleton, C. J., Kent, Walton and Barrows, JJ., concurred.

Cutting, Dickerson and Danforth, JJ., disseuted.

Cutting, J. — There are only two kinds of drains known to the law—one a public and the other a private drain. Public drains arc those constructed by the municipal officers of a town under R. S., c. 16, § 2. All other drains are private drains, and embrace two classes. The first such as connect with a public drain by permission of the municipal officers, and the second without such connection; of which latter class the defendant’s drain was one.

It appears that Lincoln street was established and built in 1834, running through a low swale, extending from above and below the sides of the road down and across the lot subsequently purchased and filled up by the defendant; that a culvert was built across the street above the lot, bellow which culvert a drain extended down and through the defendant’s lot to a public drain below. As to the construction of this drain, thus passing through the defendant’s land, by whom and for what purposes built, there was controversy, but none whatever as to its actual existence. It was not a public drain, for it was not constructed by the municipal officers, and, if the street commissioner assisted in its construction, it was without authority and consequently a gratuitous act. It is true the defendant swears “that it is not a private drain nor any use to his lot, nor of any private advantage to him.” The existence of the drain being admitted, it became a question of law as to its character. He may perhaps, now, in a certain sense truly say, after having filled up his lot, dammed up the road, and caused an overflow of water, that the drain is of no use to him so long as he is high and dry, and suffered so to remain in consequence of this drain. But the more important question now is, whether that drain is of any use to the public. When a road is legally laid out, and constructed, no owner of adjoining lands has lawful right by embankments to create an overflow of water; otherwise highways instead of being a public benefit would be a public nuisance, and such would be the situation of Lincoln street, if the defendant should prevail in this suit. Against such an, act even the common law would afford a remedy, which is also found in § 12 of the Act before cited.

The instructions were in harmony with this construction of the law, except they were too favorable for the defendant, by which the damages were reduced as found by the jury.

Dickerson and Danporth, JJ., concurred.

Served in the Merchant Marine – Radio Officer Uncle John “Jack” Galatis [Glatis] Haines, Jr.

Jack jr

My grandmother Edith’s brother, John Galatis [or Glatis] “Jack” Haines Jr., was second of eight, born 11 Sept 1910 to John Galatis “Jack” Haines and Edith Bernice Lansil  in the Allston section of Boston.

Jack jr birth


By Jack’s second birthday, the family had moved to Melrose, Massachusetts.  As the family grew, the Haines’ moved frequently between Melrose, Malden and for a short time to Saugus.

jack and EdithEde and jack

Pictured: Edith (E), Jack (J) and Doris (D) Haines

In 1920, the family was living in Malden, Jack was a 9 year old student.

1920 jACK

There were some hard times in Jack’s young life.  The Depression had disrupted the family with a move to a less expensive house in a less expensive town. The children slept using winter coats in place of blankets; blankets being an unaffordable luxury.  One story tells of Jack’s dad, Jack Haines Sr. coming home after a very late trip through the city on Christmas Eve, carrying a floor to ceiling tree which he and my mother decorated while everyone else slept. Foreverafter they told the story of how he scouted the town for a marked-down tree but the only ones he could find had been abandoned hours earlier. As he picked one up and started for home with his cache, a policeman suddenly appeared and asked what he was doing. The truth of six children sleeping at home with nothing to look forward to except Christmas morning, prompted the policeman to turn his back and walk away as he shouted, “I didn’t see a thing! Merry Christmas!”

Although times were tough, through her poetry, Jack’s sister Natalie recalls a house filled with joy:

You’re Only Young Once

… A rhyming version of Depression days

Natalie Thomson

Depression Days were then at hand
(Financial woes throughout the land.)
A seventh child was added to
A family which grew and grew.

Their worries big, their money small,
Their laughter rang from hall to hall.
Each day brought on a new event
From buying shoes to paying rent.

They picked blueberries in the sun
And sang on rides ’til day was done.
The castles were all made of sand;
The water cool, the sunshine grand.

The root beer was, of course, homemade;
Each holiday, a new parade!
The bonfires bright, who can deny,
Were better than the last July.

The icy tunnels dug in snow;
The car would need a push to go.
The swan-boat rides meant trips “in town”.
The clothes were mostly hand-me-down.

The marks in school were of the best…
Such praise for every “A” in tests!
A photograph in groups, you know,
Would find them always in front row.

The house was clean, there was no clutter,
But, oh, “Go easy on the butter!!”
The Market on those weekend nights,
With pushcarts for their city sights.

Their visiting was done in groups,
But picnics called out all the troops!
A wink from Dad, a smile from Mum,
Would mean a happy time to come

With dishes washed and windows closed,
The bathroom busy, off they’d go!

Jack, a good-looking boy, graduated from Melrose High School in 1928 [A copy of the yearbook has not been located, but according to Melrose Library Staff, he is listed as a sophomore in the 1926 yearbook].


In 1930, 20 year old Jack was living with the family in Melrose working as a bank messenger.

1930 jACK

At age 22 and a resident of Saugus, he became a Mason of the Mount Vernon Lodge, Malden, Massachusetts.

mason card

In 1940, 29-year-old Jack (who spoke directly with the census enumerator) had removed from the family homestead and was boarding at a home in Boston, paying $12/month, working as a bank clerk at First National Bank of Boston, making $1,160 annually, a large salary in comparison to fellow boarders and neighbors. His obituary further tells us he was employed by the Old Colony Bank and Trust, Boston for many years.

1940 jACK

Jack married Allene Day, born 28 June 1909, in Hartford, Michigan, to William and Katie (Rice) Day.  The pair likely met in Boston, where Allene attended Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing and attained a Registered Nursing degree in 1941. Their marriage was registered in Malden in 1942, just months before Jack’s father’s death, 10 days prior to Christmas. Did Jack come to the aid of his widowed mother who had lost everything in the Depression?  We don’t know.  Jack and Arlene soon relocated to Michigan where they likely had two sons born 1943 and 1945 [no births were located in the Massachusetts indices].  For reasons unknown, by 1947, Jack and Allene separated and Jack left Michigan and appears to have had no further contact with his children. Jack and Allene’s divorce was finalized on 3 Dec 1951 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and in 1965, Allene married second Porter Dent of Vicksburg, Michigan.

By 1947, Jack was serving in the Merchant Marine. He was a Radio Officer given the nickname “Sparks” (as were most others in his field).  It is worth noting that one serves in the Merchant Marine (never plural) someone who serves in the Merchant Marine is a sailor or a seaman or their rank (Captain, Mate, etc.) they are never referred to as a Merchant Marine.

It took a special personality to work as a Radio Officer, most were loners (some not by choice as  many got hooked by the “Well paid to see the world” publicity).  Jack was alone in the radio shack most of the time. Others crew members had the chance to interact and speak of projects they were working on.  No one understood the radio operator’s duties.  Few visited “the shack”, the noise of Morse code and static drove most away quickly.


The school where Jack received his training in unknown, but we can surmise that all schools in that era had a similar program and philosophy.

The Radio Training Station on Gallups Island in Boston, in 1944, described the requirements for the position:

“As Radio Operators, we will be the voice and hearing of the ship. Upon our ears will fall the first warning signals of danger and upon our shoulders will be placed the responsibility of flashing the first call for help in the event of disaster. In short, the success or failure of a voyage may well depend upon our skill and knowledge.

So important will be our future duties that we are receiving a very practical technical course of training. It includes code, touch typing, operating procedure, radio laws, regulations, international conferences, radio theory, practical laboratory work, operating positions, construction of composite transmitting and receiving equipment, radio-frequency and audio-frequency amplifier systems and related subjects.

Code is, however, one of our more important studies, for once we are assigned to active sea duty we must be able to carryon as efficiently as if we had been constantly engaged in the work for some time and that means taking messages on typewriters as fast as they come over the earphones.

Learning code is a fairly simple task, consuming but a comparatively short time. Building up speed, however, is quite another story, for it takes practice and concentration to acquire the art of copying and sending at rates generally used in commercial work

Before we came here most of us thought of code only in terms of dots and dashes. The letter A, for example, was dot dash, while the letter D was dash dot dot. One of the first things they taught us when we got here, though, was to forget all about dots and dashes and to think of code in terms of dits and dahs.

Now, the letter A is dit-dah, while the letter D is dah-dit-dit. In the beginning code is shot to us at such a low rate of speed, that letters are easily distinguishable. It is more difficult, however, as trans- mission becomes more rapid, to distinguish between letters. Consequently, more than half of our school day is spent in practicing code.

Each man has his own individual equipment which consists of headphones, speed selector panel, a hand sending key and a typewriter. Code is sent by hand and automatically by code sending machines, which can be regulated to any speed by the instructor.

Before graduating we must be able to copy mixed Code Groups at the rate of 18 words per minute. The ability to do this enables most of us to make plain language copy at the rate of 24 or more words per minute. Before we can get to the point of taking messages on the typewriter we must become fairly efficient at typing. We are learning the touch systems in the best “secretarial” manner and before graduation are able to type at the rate of 35 words per minute which is sufficient for practical operating work. 

While code is one of our most important studies here, other subjects of equal or near equal consequence require a great deal of our attention. Take, for instance, radio theory. In order to thoroughly understand how to make necessary repairs we have to know why our equipment functions as it does. Fundamentals of electricity, which many of us studied in high school under the general heading of physics, have to be thoroughly understood. Ohm’s law, and others, have to be more than a series of memorized words.

Today’s radio equipment is much more complicated than it was during the days of the First World War, with the result that a good portion of our time is spent in the service laboratories learning how to repair receivers, transmitters, direction finding apparatus and other paraphernalia that we may be called upon to service in mid-ocean

Most interesting to all of us, perhaps, is the actual watch standing that we do. In this phase of our work, we take live messages from the air and learn through experience the routine of shipboard procedure.

Upon completion of our course here we take the usual Federal Communications Commission examinations which are given at the Custom House in Boston. In the first place, requirements for obtaining the coveted second class license [Jack held a first class license!] are that the applicant must send and receive code at the rate of 16 words per minute mixed code and successfully pass the required elements of the test covering the rules and regulations, basic and advanced radio theory and operating practice.

Strange as it may seem, we complete our work here in somewhat less than half the time required for a like course of study in recognized civilian schools. This is due in great measure to the fact that our curriculum was outlined and prepared by men who are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of radio work. We put in a full six hour day in class, lectures and laboratory work, and facilities are available for an additional three hours at night for those requiring extra study, or wishing to practice.

Then, of course, we have to work hard in order to keep abreast of the schedule that must be maintained. A good deal of outside study is required. Textbooks, especially prepared by members of the faculty, are used in our class work, while standard electrical textbooks and technical magazines are used for reference purposes and may be drawn from the more than 3,000 copies in the school library.

Add to these the fact that all of us who were admitted had to measure up to the educational standards set by the Maritime Service and you begin to see why this intensified course is so successful. Among other things, a high school education that included at least one year of algebra is necessary for admittance to the school. Physics, though not required, is a subject that should have been included in our high school work

At the conclusion of the war we’ll be members of a Merchant Marine that will be the queen of the seas – members who will enjoy the privileges and pay of specialists aboard ship.


A rare look into the duties of a Radio Operator [click on any image to see a large version], examples include:

Keep emergency life boat transmitter battery charged.

Have an understanding with Master, Mate and Armed Guard CO as to procedure in time of distress.

Burn and destroy the ashes of any paper on which there is classified information.

Don’t break radio silence.



Online records provide details of at least 26 voyages where Jack was stationed on the vessel Kyska (all-purpose cargo ship with 5 holds, 6,190 gross tons built in Mobile, Alabama).


A 38-year-old Jack is first found, after having served one year, departing New York on 7 May 1948 arriving in Yokohama, Japan 18 Jul 1948.  He reports to be 5’10”, 165 pounds and of English descent.

jACk manifest 0

In the years that follow Jack travels to Kobe, Moji and Yokohama, Japan; Davao City, Philippines; Campbell River, British Columbia; New York; California; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

By 1953, a 5’11”, 185 pound Jack is reported as a radio officer who had served at sea for six long years. He is one of the few onboard without tattoos or scars.

He lands in Honolulu, Hawaii 10 Dec 1951, them on 24 January 1952 departs New Orleans, Louisiana where he lists his sister [my grandmother] Edith as a contact on a voyage headed to multiple ports.

jACk manifest 5

2 September 1952 he was engaged at San Francisco on a mission to Yokohama, Japan through 17 October 1952 when he landed in Seattle, Washington. Interestingly, he reports his race to be Welsh [he ancestry was approximately 25% Welsh, 68.75% English and 6.25% French].

jACk manifest 2

A day later, 18 October 1952 he again departed to Yokohama, arriving back in Seattle 11 December 1952.

jACk manifest 3

On 1 February 1953 he sailed from Portland to Yokohama, returning to Seattle 30 March 1953.

jACk manifest 4

Jack rarely had time off the ship.  A sampling of voyages in this time period included:

  • departed Los Angeles 6 April 1953 to Yokohama, returning to Seattle 27 May 1953
  • departed San Francisco 2 June 1953 to Yokohama, returning to Seattle 25 Jul 1953
  • departed Seattle 27 July 1953 to Pusan, South Korea via British Columbia, returning to Seattle 21 Sep 1953
  • departed Los Angeles 13 November 1953 to Muroran, Japan, returning to Seattle 2 Jan 1954
  • departed Seattle 24 April 1954 to Yawata, Japan, returning to Seattle 15 Jun 1954
There are a few books available on radio operators that are recommended reading by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Research Center:
Sparks at sea: the experiences of a ship’s radio offices
by Chandler, R. W.
From the high seas to low comedy : memoirs of radio man Monroe Upton.
by Upton, Monroe.
Wake of the wirelessman /
by Clemons, B. J.

In later years, Jack relocated to New York and for about 20 years was employed by RCA Global Communications. He retired a few years before his death and resided in North Tonawanda, New York.


Jack was a member of the American Contract Bridge League and won or placed in a number of local tournaments in Tonawanda as early as 1964.


He also belonged to the International Propeller Club of the United States, a business network dedicated to the promotion of the maritime industry, commerce and global trade.  The Propeller Club aggressively promotes the maritime industry through many of its programs and partnering with other similar organizations. Their goal is to educate legislators and the public as to the importance and necessity of all waterborne commerce.


Jack’s youngest sister Natalie, describes this chapter of her eldest brother’s life.  She writes:

“My active involvement in the arrangements and decisions, which, of necessity, I had to make following his unexpected death, caused me in the days and weeks following it to do an enormous amount of reflection and in-depth contemplation about his life — as I knew him, as others knew him, and as he might have known and/or seen himself.  I am far from being the psychologist or the writer who could, at this point in time  accurately tell anyone about Jack.  But to answer the question, “What has he been doing?” over the last 35 years, I’ll address myself to that.

As I know it, he spent many years (I don’t know the exact number) after leaving Michigan, in a Merchant Marine as THE radio operator on ships that touched ports throughout the world, most often in Japan, whose culture he learned, respected and seemed to like very much.  He was extremely proud of holding a master radio operator’s license (no small feat), enjoyed being known by the traditional maritime nickname, “Sparks” while at sea, and felt comfortable with the Petty Officer rank he held aboard ship…a notch above seaman and a notch below officer.  He was capable of easily mingling with both groups.

In later years, when both his energies and the glamorous escape of the sea diminished, he worked on land, still as a communicator, for a company with large shipping interests on the Great Lakes and off the New England Coast [RCA Global Communications, New York].  He retired on Social Security a few years ago.  His pension ended upon his death.

Most of the time, while working in private industry, he lived in upper New York State, alone, as he seemed to prefer. He visited us often here in Malden whenever “the spirit moved him” and one of the ways in which I saw him was a man who wanted to be unencumbered, yet who couldn’t completely relinquish all of his family ties.

He was avidly interested in the keenness of playing bridge and was competitively active in the local club; good enough to often participate in their tournaments. He was equally proud of his membership in the Masons, keeping his dues up to date in the Malden Lodge until the end, although he had not actively participated in it for many years”.

Jack died suddenly 31 May 1979 in North Tonawanda, Niagara, New York and was buried Wyoming Cemetery, Melrose, Massachusetts alongside his parents. 

Jack jr death

Patriots Day and Ancestor William Grout

My dad worked as an Engineer, at Honeywell, in Lexington, Massachusetts, and enamored with the area and its history, cherished Patriots Day.  In the 1970’s, whilst much of Boston had plans to attend the Red Sox game or cheer for Boston Marathon runners, we rose Monday morning at 4AM and trekked to Lexington to view the early morning reenactment of the battle on Lexington Green. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War, fought within the towns of  Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy [Arlington] and Cambridge.  Although dark, typically cold and sometimes rainy, it was always exciting!

The Colonists wished to run their own affairs and sought their independence from England. In an effort to stop this, the Regulars headed for Concord, on the morning of 19 April 1775, with orders to destroy muskets, powder, cannons and provisions stockpiled at Colonel Barrett’s farm. The Red Coats arrived in Lexington at dawn to find the militia gathered on the Green. The British ordered them to lay down their arms and disperse. Then a shot rang out, “the shot heard around the world”, signifying the start of the American Revolution. When the smoke cleared, two were dead and several wounded.  Women and children ran to their fallen loved ones as the march continued to Concord [a YouTube video of the reenactment, filmed in 2010 can be found here].

Later, we attended the parade, toured historical homes and snacked.

Turns out, my 5th g-grandfather, William Grout, was engaged in the Lexington Alarm! [click on any image for a larger view]



Grout pension

William Grout was born 25 June 1754 in East Sudbury [now Wayland], Massachusetts to William Grout and Eunice Moore (widow of Samuel Cutting). William was their only known child, as the elder William, age 29, was likely killed in action, during the French & Indian War while part of Captain Dakin’s company in Lake George.  

On 20 July 1758, the Indians attacked a group of ten who were scouting. Others from the fort went out to assist; the Indians shot and killed fourteen, including William. The dead were scalped by the Indians and later buried in a mass grave.


Dr. Ebenezer Roby, jr. who was part of the Alarm List (persons between the age of 16 and 60 ordinarily exempt from military duty) that were called to join the First Foot company in Sudbury on 25 April 1757 during the 4th French and Indian war, kept a journal of his service which documents the elder William Grout’s death:

Thursday, 27  [July, 1758]

 A warm morning.  A smart thunder shower about 11 o’cock, very warm before.  I see William Rice who told me that Captain Dakin, Jones and Lawrence, Lieutenant Curtis, William Grout, Jonathan Paterson was killed.  A shower in the afternoon. Lodged on straw bed.

Click for full Diary.

William Grout death

The elder William was the grandson of John Grout, the Puritan, born 1616 who immigrated to America in the early 1600’s, and who from 1675 to 1676  saved Sudbury from certain annihilation in King Phillip’s war. Read of him here – “The Original Captain America Save Sudbury”  After his heroics in the King Phillip War, Grout was promoted to captain, equal to knighthood in England.  Grout was not in the employ of the government and was entitled to pay, but he volunteered his service and received no bounty. he died in 1697 age of 81.

According to g-grandsons Walter Franklin & Wilbur Henry Lansil’s SAR applications, the younger William carried forward his family’s patriotic tradition as part of the Minute Company under the command of Captain Nathaniel Cudworth, in Colonel Abijah Pierce’s regiment, at the Lexington Alarm; he was a private in Captain Thadeus Russell’s company in Colonel Jonathon Brewer’s regiment 1775; in Captain Ashiel Wheeler’s company, Colonel Reed’s regiment 1776 at Ticonderoga; in Captain M. Sawyer’s Company, Colonel Dyke’s regiment 1777-1778; in Captain Seth Newton’s Company, at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Colonel Abijah Stern’s regiment and in Captain William Howe’s Company, Colonel John Rand’s Regiment, 1776, thus serving sixteen months in Revolutionary War times.

FullSizeRender (4)

Captain Nathaniel Cudworth’s participation in April 1775 is documented in written accounts:

The news spread quickly that men had been killed on the Lexington Green.  In Revolutionary Times, this was known as “the Day of the Lexington Alarm”.  The alert went out to every Middlesex village and farm, and developed a life of its own, reaching Worcester and Hampshire counties, New Hampshire and Maine.  The roads began to fill with minutemen and militiamen, advancing on Concord from many directions.

Sudbury sent several units, one being Captain Nathaniel Cudworth’s, with 40 men, likely one of whom was our William Grout.  There is a strong town tradition that Captain Cudworth’s Sudbury Company was heavily engaged on Brook’s Hill [Hudson, Sudbury, 380] and it is also possible that the other six units from Sudbury joined the ambush at Hardy’s [Brook’s] Hill, about a mile from Meriam’s corner, on Wednesday, March 22, 1775 – the fourth day of the Battle.

130 PM

map battle

battle road

Red dawn at Lexington

Lex accout #2

battle 3

Brewers 1775.jpg

In 1833, when William applied for a pension he wrote:

“I William Grout of Frankfort in Said County of Waldo [Maine], do hereby on oath further certify that from old age and bodily infirmity I cannot recollect the precise times which I enlisted in the War of the Revolution, but as near as I can recollect my first enlistment was on or about the 19th day of April 1775 with Captain Thadeus Russell and that I served eight months, the term for which I enlisted….”


Grout’s signed pension file tells us:

1. He was born in East Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1754.

2. That he believes his age is recorded at East Sudbury.

3. That he was living at East Sudbury when he enlisted and since the Revolutionary War he lived seven years in Hillsborough [New Hampshire], from thence two years in east Sudbury and from thence he removed to Frankfort [Maine] where he now lives.

4. That he volunteered his services.

5. That he recollects Col. Josiah Fuller, that General Putnam commanded on Cambridge Side, Prospect Hill, so called; that Col Patterson commanded a regiment and have up a ____ on Bunker Hill; that he recollects Col Carlton of Ticonderoga, but does not now recollect any other material fact but what is contained in his declaration.

6. That he never received any discharge for they were not generally asked for or given at that time.

7. The he is well known by the Rev Joshua Hall, Archibald Jones, Benjamin Shaw, Nehemiah Rich, esq., W. William Andrews and Tisdale Dean of said Frankfort, all or any of whom will testify to his character for veracity and their belief that he was a soldier of the Revolution.


On 1 April 1779, William Grout married Hannah Jennison, daughter of Robert Jennison/Jenison and Sibbella/Sybil Brintall at Sudbury and worked as a carpenter.

Although my research is “work in progress”, they are said to have had at least seven children: Joel, Amos, William, Mary “Polly”, Nancy, Hannah and Eunice.  Census data indicates there may have also been a fifth daughter.

None of these births are recorded in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, however William does appear on the tax records there from 1781 to 1785, after which he apparently relocated to Maine, where many records did not survive.   Since William was the only “Grout” to reside in Hancock County, Maine in that period, and as he had no siblings, it is likely that all Grouts recorded there are descendants.  His children William and Nancy are documented as residing with he and Hannah in 1822.  Nancy later married Nathanial Grant and his pension file further confirms her parentage.

According to the Lansil’s unsupported SAR applications and family lore, my family descends from William’s son Amos of Frankfort, who married Rachael Couillard of Bucksport.  At that time, SAR did not require documentation.  Walter and Wilbur’s mother, Betsey Turner Grout, likely told her sons that her grandfather had fought in the Revolution.  She had first hand knowledge, unlike today’s requirements, further proof was not a requirement.

amos rachael married

A land deed, dated 8 October 1810, filed in Hancock County transferring land from Amos Grout of Frankfort, Gentleman to William Richmond Marc and Tisdale Dean offers further evidence of the marriage. Rachael Grout signs by mark and Joshua Couillard and Arch. Jones witness to signing of Rachael Couillard. This probable error further implies that Rachael Grout was formerly Rachael Couillard.Rachael signature

William Grout was sued in 1800 in the Court of Common Pleas by Benjamin Thompson and Jesse Wyman who asked that Grout, a carpenter, be imprisoned in gaol (jail) at Castine, for debt of fifty dollars and fifty one cents plus thirteen dollars and thirty eight cents for the cost of the suit.

They filed a second suit for forty four dollars and twenty six cents plus twenty five cents more for this writ plus your fees.

lawsuit Grout

100 acres of William’s real estate was set off as debt repayment of one hundred and twenty dollars (he still owed seven dollars and seventy six cents).  The land is described in the case file:

land description Grout

In 1802, probable sons Amos and Joel repurchase the same land, William is a witness – Grout deed 17 Aug 1802`


Another land deed dated 1809 seems to further link father William with sons Amos and Joel (note that Amos’ wife Rachael gives up her rights of dower, thus confirming this is likely “our Amos”).

Click here to read – Grout deed 25 Feb 1809

Amos and Rachael’s daughter, my third g-grandmother, was named Betsey Turner Grout [her story here], perhaps after an aunt –  a Hannah Grout, who according to cemetery records, was born in 1791 on Orphan Island, Maine (home of William Grout the 1790 census year), married a Samuel Turner and named a child William Grout Turner.  Amos and this elder Hannah are likely siblings and he choose to give his child the Turner name, perhaps after a child of his sister’s who was deceased.


A granddaughter of Joel Grout, through his son Robert Clark Grout, Elizabeth Sarah “Lizzie” (Grout) Smith (b. 26 Jul 1849 d. abt 1935) left a short family history.  She recalls her grandfather having three siblings.  Aunt Turner, who resided on Isle Au Haut, Maine; Aunt Drake and a brother who had a son Amos.  She further recalls that Aunt Turner’s daughter married Captain Lampher of Searsport.  Copy here: story-grout

A Mary (Turner) Lampher’s death is reported in Everett, Massachusetts in 1910.  She was reported to have been born in Isle Au Haute to  Samuel Turner and Hannah Grout. Hannah’s birth location is said to be Orphan’s Island, Maine (which is where William Grout was enumerated in 1790).

death certificate.jpg

“Aunt Drake” was likely William’s daughter Mary “Polly” Grout who supposedly married Lemuel Drake (unsourced online trees).  The death certificate of Phoebe (Drake) Perkins, recorded in Winterport in 1905 reports parents as Polly Grout or Grant and Samuel Drake. Samuel and Mary are found in the 1850 census in Newburgh, Maine; an ancestry user reports that Samuel was actually Lemuel.  The 1840 census does include a Lemuel Drake in Newburgh.  In 1820 & 1830 a man of that name was residing in Dixmont, Maine.

In 1850 a Friend Drake was enumerated with this family.  His death, recorded in Winterport, Maine in 1899 names parents as Lemuel and Mary Grout or Grant.  It further reports his mother’s birthplace as Massachusetts. This is possible, given that William Grout’s pension file reports: “he lived seven years in Hillsborough [New Hampshire], from thence two years in east Sudbury and from thence he removed to Frankfort [Maine] where he now lives.”

The “brother” of Joel, who Lizzie names in her history  “had one son named Amos”. My guess it that this brother was Amos, my direct ancestor, son of William Grout, husband of Rachael Couillard, who did have a son Amos.

Lizzie writes: “In the fall of 1859, father sold his Jackson property and we all moved to the old home in Monroe.  Grandfather was dead and uncle Amos (Joel’s son) was living on the place. Sure enough, we find that in Joel’s will, written Nov 1856, he leaves Lizzie’s father, Robert Clark Grout, land in Monroe. Joel’s son Amos is appointed as executor. A copy can be found on here.

William Grout in Later Years

1790 – Orphan Island, Maine [which was part of Massachusetts until 15 March 1820]

The William Grout household in 1790 included seven members:

Home in 1790 (City, County, State): Orphan Island, Hancock, Maine
Free White Persons – Males – Under 16: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 16 and over: 2
Free White Persons – Females: 3
Number of Household Members: 7


Description of Orphan Island, once a shipbuilding village:

Desc Orphan

1800 Buckstown [later Bucksport], Maine [which was part of Massachusetts until 15 March 1820]

The 1800 census, having a column “from whence immigrated” further verifies William as the William Grout born in Sudbury. The household included 10 members; the children include three boys and five girls:


Home in 1800 (City, County, State): Buckstown, Hancock, Maine
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 2
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 2
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over: 1
Number of Household Members Under 16: 4
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 10

Description of Buckstown [later Bucksport in 1827]

bucksport 1827

1810-1830 (and likely until death) Frankfort, Maine [which was part of Massachusetts until 15 March 1820]

In 1810 and 1820, the household included five members:

Home in 1810 (City, County, State): Frankfort, Hancock, Maine
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1
Number of Household Members Under 16: 1
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 5
Home in 1820 (City, County, State): Frankfort, Hancock, Maine
Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 26 thru 44: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1
Number of Persons – Engaged in Agriculture: 2
Free White Persons – Under 16: 1
Free White Persons – Over 25: 3
Total Free White Persons: 5

And in 1830, just two are listed in the household, likely William and his son William (Hannah likely died between 1824 and 1830 as she does not appear in the 1830 census but is listed on William’s 1822/4 pension application – see below).

Home in 1830 (City, County, State): Frankfort, Oxford, Maine
Free White Persons – Males – 30 thru 39: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 70 thru 79: 1
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 1
Total Free White Persons: 2

History of Frankfort can be read here

On March 18, 1818, Congress enacted legislation which provided lifetime pensions to poverty stricken Continental Line and US Navy veterans who had served at least 9 months or until the end of the war.  The benefits provided for $20 per month for qualifying officers and $8 per month for non officers.  So many applications were filed under this Act that the legislation was amended on May 1, 1820 to require applicants to submit certified schedules of income and assets with their applications and empowering the Secretary of War, in his sole discretion, to remove from the pension rolls such beneficiaries as he may determine were not in need of financial assistance. On March 1, 1823, Congress passed legislation which resulted in the restoration of some of the pensions disallowed by the Secretary.

Mr. Arthur Livermore, State Representative for New Hampshire, requested a pension on William’s behalf on 19 January 1820 at the 16th Congress, session 1 (recorded on Journal Page 147).  He was referred to the Committee on Pensions and Revolutionary Claims.


On 24 January 1820, his claim was referred to the Secretary of War (recorded on Journal Page 165).

Screenshot (6)

On 29 March 1820 the report of the Secretary of War, in regards to his pension. was laid before the house (recorded on Journal Page 350).

Screenshot (5)

Library of Congress, American Memory, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875, , Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States

William’s application for a pension under this act [although the database is labeled land grants?] is found in Hancock County, Maine for his Revolutionary Service. Original documents stored at the Maine State Archives here:Revolutionary war application

He was a carpenter, age 68, who is unable to work due to sickness and great debility. He did not own real estate. His possessions included: 1 hog $4.00, tea kettle & other iron ware $3.00, crockery ware $1.00, chairs, tubs and wooden ware $2.00, sundry small articles $6.00 – total $16.00. He resided with his wife Hannah (66) in Frankfort and two children, Nancy (24) and William (27).

Frankfort vitals

On June 7, 1832, Congress enacted pension legislation extending benefits more universally than under any previous legislation.  This act provided for full pay for life for all officers and enlisted men who served at least 2 years in the Continental Line, the state troops or militia, the navy or marines. Men who served less than 2 years but at least 6 months were granted pensions of less than full pay. Benefits were payable effective March 4, 1831, without regard to financial need or disability and widows or children of were entitled to collect any unpaid benefits due from the last payment to a veteran until his death. William finally was approved to collect under this act.

Payments under this act, which were made available in March and September, began in March 1832 but were retroactive to 4 June 1831. The numbers in the ledger below indicate whether the payment was collected by William (or his representative) in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th quarter.  It also tells us that he likely did not move from Maine in this time frame (usually a notation would indicate a transfer to an alternate pension office).

grout pension final U.S. Pensioners, 1818-1872 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Ledgers of Payments, 1818-1872, to U.S. Pensioners Under Acts of 1818 Through 1858 From Records of the Office of the Third Auditor of the Treasury, 1818-1872; (National Archives Microfilm Publication T718, 23 rolls); Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, Record Group 217; National Archives, Washington, D.C..

William is listed in the 1835 lists of Pensioners.

pensionroll1835i-002067 U.S., The Pension Roll of 1835 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data:United States Senate.The Pension Roll of 1835.4 vols. 1968 Reprint, with index. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992.

Final payment

william final

william final 2.jpgwilliam final 3.jpg

Based on the date of last pension payment, in the 4th quarter (Oct/Nov/Dec) of 1836, Grout, in his early 80’s likely died late 1836/early 1837.

The “Greatest” Aunt

This week, we lost my “Greatest” Aunt Natalie, Nana Hall’s sister, the youngest of eight, born four days shy of my grandmother’s 21st birthday.  My grandmother, the eldest, married at 22 and had a child about a year later.  I suspect three-year old Natalie got a kick out of having a nephew, perhaps requiring him to address her as “auntie” amongst their classmates, when they reached school age. She was seven when my dad was born, and adored “little Bobby”.

Life wasn’t easy. The Great Depression began when she was a babe. The family struggled; being unable to afford blankets, they used coats to keep warm while they slept. They moved frequently and Natalie’s father, John Galatis Haines, held many different jobs (read about them here).  Natalie lost her dad at fourteen, just before Christmas, and her mom, Edith Bernice (Lansil) Haines, just eight years later.

July 13, 1935, 228 Main St., Malden, Massachusetts
Joan Newhall, Natalie (Haines) Thomson, Charles G. Hall Jr.

Aunt Natalie and Nana, Edith Haines Hall 

My grandmother married into a wealthier family and initially had little contact with her kin. Likely her new husband feared that the financial burden of Natalie’s struggling family  (during the era of the Great Depression) would fall into his hands. Despite this inequity and the vast age difference, Ede and Natalie were close.  Aunt Natalie was the only of my grandmother’s siblings who was with us on holidays, birthdays and special occasions. She was our fun, wild, outgoing and crazy (in a good way) great-aunt who we jokingly referred to as our “Greatest” Aunt Natalie – she got a kick out of the pun.  Christmas gifts were delivered with the “wrong” labels –  Linda got David’s, David got Nancy’s and Nancy got Linda’s.  It was the same every year; she would claim exasperatingly, “I can’t believed I mixed things up again!!!”. We unwittingly believed, and laughed at her foolishness (while she likely had a good laugh at our gullibility).


On Christmas she came armed with handouts for our annual sing-along; poems she crafted from family history, set to familiar Christmas tunes.


Natalie, an avid genealogist, planned vacations around our heritage.  She tracked the Lansil’s in Bangor, Maine, dragged her husband and children through cemeteries and visited our homelands of Llanfairfechan, Wales and Richibucto, New Brunswick, Canada.  She spoke of Stephen Hopkins, our Mayflower ancestor and William Grout, our Revolutionary War hero – she “hooked” me and I became a genea-adict!  Several years ago, I was overjoyed to become the recipient of the Roots Research Books – Lansil & Haines  full of letters from many long deceased (and living) cousins, photos and other fascinating documents (such as”Mary Haines Diary” and the record of seaman Charles V. Lansil’s drowning off Bar Harbor) rich with details of our heritage, captured in the 1970’s, long before the public Internet.



This past summer, on a trip to New Brunswick, my husband and I followed her footsteps with hopes to locate the, “Welcome to Richibucto”, signs Natalie had visited in the 1970’s when she was about my age, and to FINALLY locate the “long lost” family of Jennie Ferguson, Natalie’s paternal grandmother and my g-g-grandmother  (her story here). Alas, we succeeded at neither.

8db7b372-0617-416d-92d4-519030d51f70 cdf9749e-d0c0-4ec6-b18b-26150cca6f77


2014-09-11 10.47.28-2 2014-09-11 10.54.35

Natalie was ahead of her time and a “blogger” in 1999, long before the term blogger was coined.  She left a wonderful array of posts with touching family stories and experiences: click here for her BLOG and here for a post I wrote of her blog.

Natalie’s self-written bio reads:


Melrose, Massachusetts welcomed me on September 26, 1928. Of the two boys and five girls, I was the baby of the Haines family. That family moved to the next town, Malden, in 1931. My claim to fame was portraying the princess in the 5th grade operetta at the Glenwood School. I graduated in 1946 from Malden High School’s Commercial Course. Then, at a bank in Boston, learned how to wire the control boards for IBM computers.

Ed Thomson, a returned combat veteran of WWII, and I married in October, 1947, and had two outstanding children, Joanne, born 1953 and Edward, born 1958. Later, they further enriched the family by marrying Don and Patty and parenting five wonderful grandchildren.

For about a decade, I taught Sunday School while my children were growing. Ed served as a Deacon and we both worked on varied committees at church. In addition to our careers, our interests centered around our children’s activities. Starting in 1965, I helped organize the Central Little League Auxiliary in Malden. My husband coached a winning team. For many years I took various courses at local colleges. Ed died of cancer-from-smoking in April 1983.

It took a lot of money and several futile attempts for me to give up smoking. Then, by chance, I learned about a group called Nicotine Anonymous. I faithfully attended meetings, absorbed the message, and now it is eleven years since I’ve smoked a killer-cigarette.

For twenty years I worked for Intercity Homemaker/Home Health Aide Service. I retired as Administrative Assistant after years as a Caseload Manager.

In 1993, I moved back to Melrose. My stride has become comparatively a stroll, but retirement continues to be pleasant, productive and poetically progressive.

Rest in Peace my Greatest Aunt Natalie and thanks for the wonderful legacy….AND if you can hear me, please send a SIGN to help us FINALLY find Jennie Ferguson’s parents John and Elizabeth!!!!

Natalie Haines Thomson – Obituary


Natalie Haines Thomson, longtime resident of Malden and Melrose, died Friday, March 13, 2015. She is survived by her daughter the Rev. Joanne Thomson (Donald Hausch) of Madison, WI; her son Edward M. Thomson of Malden; by grandchildren Patrick Kelley, Paul Hausch, and Jessie Hausch; by her step-grandson Justin Maggs; and nephew Charles (Ann) Hall. She was preceded in death by her husband Edward Joseph Thomson; by her daughter-in-law Patricia (Carrico) Thomson; by her step-grandson Richard Maggs; by her parents Edith (Lansil) and John Haines; and by seven brothers and sisters (Edith, John, William, Doris, Walter, Marion, and Bernice).

Natalie was for many years a case manager at Intercity Homemaker Service in Malden, and through her work she became acquainted with almost everyone in the area who needed help caring for an elderly or disabled loved one. She thrived on the many relationships she made while matching home health aides and homemakers with her clients. In addition to her work at Intercity, Natalie worked throughout her life at a variety of jobs in Malden and Boston as a bookkeeper or as an administrative assistant.

She brought her considerable organizational talents to volunteer and community work. She belonged to the First Congregational Church in Malden, where she taught Sunday School, served on committees, and produced masterful roast beef dinners. She organized one of the first auxiliaries of the Malden Central Little League, raising funds to support players and teams.

But in her family, Natalie was known as a poet, writer and genealogist. Every family event, each birthday, graduation, or anniversary, was marked by a poem created uniquely for the occasion. Natalie kept journals throughout her life, recording her thoughts and observations. She spent years researching her ancestors long before the Internet, creating meticulous documentation for future generations. After retirement she became part of the Silver Stringers at the Melrose Senior Center, which developed an online newspaper for senior citizens, one of the first of its kind.

Natalie loved nothing better than being with people. She was the most extroverted person ever born, had a legendary sense of humor, and was filled with endless curiosity about people and their stories. She made numerous friends among the shopkeepers in and around Melrose Square while on her daily walks for the past 20 years.

Visitation will be held at Weir MacCuish Family Funeral Home at 144 Salem St, Malden on Friday, March 20th from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 21 at 11:00 am at the Melrose Highlands Congregational Church (UCC) at 355 Franklin St., Melrose, with the Rev. Beth Horne officiating. Visitation will precede the service at 10:00 AM at the church.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to The Special Olympics.

Natalie Haines Thomson – Eulogy written and read by her daughter Joanne

Many years ago I swore that I would never, ever, speak at a family funeral.  It’s just way too hard.  But I think that my mother appreciates the fact that I want to try to have the last word.

I want to start with a few thank you’s.  Thank you to all of you who have come today.  You probably have some idea how much it means to my brother Eddie and I that you are here.  I also want to thank  the people of Melrose Highlands Congregational Church for offering us a church home today.  And I want to say thank you to my brother.  He has been there for Natalie through thick and very thin.  His commitment to our mother over these last few years of her dementia and illness has been extraordinary.  I have been proud of him for the way he has taken care of our mother, and I know our father would be proud, too.

By this point in our lives, we’ve all listened to a lot of tributes given at funerals.  Sometimes I’m jealous when I listen to these tributes, because more often than not, the eulogy makes it sound like the person who died was a perfect angel living on earth.  Sitting there listening, I’d envy that family, and I’d wish that my family members were as perfect as those people appeared to be.  Because my family members are not.  Perfect.  With all due respect.

But that’s what I want my last word to be.  My mother was not perfect.  And yet she set an extraordinary example for us.  There are things she did that hurt or confused us.  Some things I will never really completely understand.  And yet she was an incredible woman who loved us and who let us know how much she loved us, right up until the moment when she couldn’t communicate anything anymore.

I think about the values that our mother and father instilled in us, for example.  Hard work, honesty, compassion, laughter, love of family, and of the friends who become your family — I’m incredibly grateful to have grown up with parents who were rock solid committed to values like these.  But our parents’ values went much deeper and much farther.  There was something that led them to roll past other people’s expectations and do what they knew was right.  I mean, Natalie married a Catholic.

Here’s an example of the kind of values I’m talking about.  This is an excerpt from one of her journals.   She wrote this on the Sunday after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  “I attended church this morning,” she wrote.  “I regretted that (the sermon) bypassed an opportunity to promote brotherhood (and make) inroads (into) some people’s staunch bigotry….   Instead of propounding on God’s law, and reminding us of Jesus’ strength, (it) eloquently and fervently spoke on a theme of ‘America’s strength is in the obedience (she underlined obedience) of her laws.’ (she double underlined this)….Not a word of what Dr. King had accomplished or of what we (double underlined again) should try to accomplish.”   That is a mother to be proud of.  We are indebted to her for values like that.

On a lighter note, let me share that the following page of her journal records that, quote, “Joanne’s essay on ‘How We Can Build A Better Malden’ won at Lincoln Junior High.”  If only this masterpiece had been preserved for future generations, think of the Malden we would have today.

That’s the first last word I have:  a tribute to our mother’s independence of mind and spirit, and the values she passed on to us that go far beyond compassion and fairness and honesty.

The last last word I have is that she was the embodiment of the very deep truth that it is never too late, and that the world and its possibilities are always greater than you think they are.  There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God:  not mistakes; not wounds and scars; not a lack of options; not even our own confusion about how to do our best for the people we love.

Going through my mother’s papers, I found a print out (because she saved every piece of paper; every single piece of paper); of her registration for classes for a human services certificate program at UMass Boston from the early 1990’s.  She should have gone to college.  We all know this.  But at the age of 64 or so, she decided to commute after work on the subway to UMass Boston to take classes for a certificate in human services administration.  So what if she never had the chance to go to college.  She had the chance now.  I think of her finishing her class at UMass probably around nine at night, getting on the Red Line, changing to the Orange, walking back to her car through Malden Square.   It’s never too late.

But what will always be for me the greatest example of her character was that she gave up drinking and gave up smoking.  It would have been great if she’d stopped earlier. But it surely was magnificent that she gave up alcohol in her 50’s and smoking in her 60’s.  I remember when my father was sick, the very first night that he spent in the hospital, at the old New England Memorial.  I was at the hospital with her, and it was finally time to leave.  It was probably about eight o’clock at night, and the sun had gone down since we’d gotten there.  She asked me to follow her in my car from the hospital in Stoneham to her house on Kimball Street because she had never before driven alone after dark.  This is maybe a 10 minute drive.  She was 55 years old.  She had a long, long way to go.  But she brought all of her drive and all of her relentless energy to both of these challenges, and she did it.  I think she was astonishing.  Boy, was she mad at me when I made her smoke outdoors in Wisconsin in January.  And it’s true, she drove us completely crazy with all of the stories from her supposedly “anonymous” groups.  But what she did was pretty incredible.   She changed her life.  She saved her life.  She looked like a completely ordinary person.  She was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  But she was extraordinary.  

There is far, far more good that is possible than you might at first believe.  So don’t give up.  She never gave up.



52 Ancestors Week #35 – The Haines Girls were Poets and I Didn’t Even Know It!

No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”


My Nana and her sisters frequently wrote poems to one another on birthdays and special occasions.  Today I share one written by Nana’s sister, Bernice, of her mother (my g-grandmother), Edith Bernice “Ede” (Lansil) Haines:


For Mother’s Birthday

Nearly sixty years ago,
He stood there with his bride,
He was that sweet girls handsome beau,
His chest was filled with pride.

Her eyes were blue, his twinkled brown,
They made their vows for life,
Then kept those vows for all the years,
Did John and Ede, his wife.

The children came, all eight of them,
Three boys, five girls were born,
They grew and loved, were snug and safe,
And welcomed every morn.

First Edith with her cherry ways,
Their firstborn, small and coy,
She thrived, untouched by “flapper” days,
And filled their hearts with joy.

Her days have passed so fruitfully,
They’ve beautified her face,
Grandchildren now upon her knee,
How did she stand the pace?

Jack grew to be so tall and fine,
Don Juan and bon vivant,
He’s traveled o’er this big wide world,
The sea his happy haunt.

Does he think about those days
He and Edith danced together,
The “flivver” with the “cranky” ways,
Baby Nat, light as a feather.

Next Walter came to stay a while,
He couldn’t tarry long,
His baby ways, his happy smile,
So brief was his life’s song.

Yes, John and Ede knew sadness,
The baby’s coat was white as snow,
A trolley ride ended gladness,
Leaving emptiness we’ll never know.

Doris was the next to come,
So thoughtful, so serene.
In yellow ruffled evening gown,
She danced just like a queen.

She’s smart, ambitious, she’s our prize.
In her class she’ll be first,
Compassion smiles in her blue eyes,
Soon she will be a nurse.

And then the dimpled daughter came,
Called Marion Jeanette.
So effervescent and so gay,
She was her family pet.

She flew a plane up in the clouds,
She skied down snowy slopes.
Today out west she can be proud,
She lived up to all hopes.

Bill came along, Mom’s special son.
He brought her all his love.
When came the day she needed him
He joined her up above.

Always there when needed,
Ready with his helping hand.
He even went to fight the war,
Upon old England’s land.

While he was there he gave his all
To each of us each day,
He gave us fun and “had a ball”,
Too soon he went away.

Next came the girl with golden hair,
To this happy group she came,
They gave her warmth, they gave her hope,
She’s called Bernice by name.

Thanks for the memories of days gone by,
Times of happiness and joy,
They’ll like the way she raised her brood,
Of three girls and four boys.

Then Ede and John they took a rest.
A fine family was theirs,
To love and raise and give the best,
And protect from all life’s cares.

But Natalie was bound to find,
A way to be our girl.
She came and blessed our happy home.
She became our precious pearl.

A writer and a poetess,
Joanne and Ed she gave.
Down on Cape Cod she settled,
A pioneer so brave.

Our names may change to Hall or White,
Or something else it seems,
Like Thomson perhaps Richards,
Yet “Haines” will haunt our dreams.

We hope Ede and John are proud of us
On their perch among the stars,
That they love us still away out there,
On Jupiter or Mars.

It’s nineteen hundred sixty-five,
Our childhood years have past.
Swan boats, root beer, happy rides,
From which the dye was cast.

They did us proud did Ede and John,
They gave us zest for life,
Through smiles and tears and joy and pain,
Through happy times and strife.

We’re scattered far and traveled wide,
We’ve lived and quelled our fears.
Today we look back with pride,
Upon those passing years.

“We pass this way but once” she said,
So let’s look on ahead,
Our heads held high, our stops serene,
We’ll follow where she led.

P.S.  Thought talent seems to be my lack,
I just had to get in the act.
“Poetic license” isn’t here,
I meant each word; I hope that’s clear.

group sheet

52 Ancestors Week #34 – Another Lansil Artist

No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”


George Lansil, was born 28 Jan 1839 in Bangor, Penobscot, Maine, to Captain James P. Lansil and Martha Colby and thus a grandchild of my 4th g-grandparents Charles V. Lansil and Ruth Paine and my first cousin 4 x removed. He attended the Hammond Street Congregation Church Sabbath School.

sunday school


In 1860, George and a younger brother were residing at a boarding house and he was employed as a Molder.

He went off to serve in the Civil War (applied for a pension, which was rejected as he only served 60 days); his discharge papers were in 2008 auctioned on Ebay, the description reads:


pension increase



By the late 1800’s, George Lansil was described as a “painstaking, thorough artist” and one of Bangor’s finest photographers (he is credited with assisting Mathew Brady, the well known Civil War photographer during the War – see his work HERE). He became established as a photographer in the early 1860’s. By the mid 1880’s, he was located in his Main Street studio, and had 5 assistants. His studio occupied three floors and was comprised of eight rooms.

Langdon’s List of 19th & Early 20th Century Photographers


Lansil, George L., photographer, 3 Bowman’s Block, brds Bangor House, Bangor, ME (1882)


Lansil, George, photographer, 3 Bowman’s Block, brds Franklin House, Bangor ME (1871-1872); photographer, 3 Bowman’s Block, brds Penobscot Exchange, Bangor, ME (1873); photographer, 3 Bowman’s Block, brds J. W. Abbott’s, May, Bangor, ME (1875); photographer, 3 Bowman Block, brds Bangor House, Bangor, ME (1879-1880). 

In 1871 he had joined C. L. Marston.

1871 picture

By 1880 our bachelor is residing at the Bangor House on Main Street.

In 1883 he formed a partnership with Charles R. Gould who declared him to be “the finest photographer and most finished artist this side of Boston”.

1883 lansil partner

George married Ella Severance, 27 Mar 1884, widow of Edward E. Small, daughter of Samuel and Betsey (Thompson) Severence.  Ella had a daughter Flora Lilly Small born 24 May 1874.


george and ella marriage.jpg

On 19 Mar 1885 Ella and George’s only known child who survived to adulthood, Martha Louise “Mattie” Lansil, was born (the 1900 & 1910 censuses claims Ella has given birth to three, one living).

Her half sister Flora Lilly Small died 20 Jun 1890, age 16.

A cousin writes “I remember grandmother Mattie Lansil Richardson very well. She spent her last years living with her daughter Helen and her son-in-law Gordon Danforth in Orrington ME. She told wonderful stories of old Bangor. She had one half sister, Lilly who died of diphtheria I think, when she was a little girl. Ella Severance was the love of George’s life as the story goes. She married Small and broke his heart. Small was wounded in the war, returned home, but was never really well again. He died and George got the girl”.

Edward Small’s obituary:


flora death.jpg

In 1900-1, George advertised in the University of Maine at Orono’s yearbook.

george adgeorge ad2

George photographed his only daughter at many stages of her life.  One hundred years after her birth, in 1985, the GAR Museum featured this collection.


I recently visited and found the exhibit is no longer on display, but is stored in a back room not open to the public.  The curator was kind enough to allow me access to photograph the collection.

2013-09-18 11.58.46 2013-09-18 12.00.09 2013-09-18 12.00.16 2013-09-18 12.00.22 2013-09-18 12.00.30 2013-09-18 12.00.40 2013-09-18 12.00.49 2013-09-18 12.00.55 2013-09-18 12.01.01 2013-09-18 12.01.09 2013-09-18 12.01.18 2013-09-18 12.01.27 2013-09-18 12.01.32 2013-09-18 12.01.39 2013-09-18 12.01.45 2013-09-18 12.01.54 2013-09-18 12.02.04 2013-09-18 12.02.10 2013-09-18 12.02.18-2 2013-09-18 12.02.29 2013-09-18 12.02.35 2013-09-18 12.02.45 2013-09-18 12.02.53historical society

The local newspaper, The Daily Whig and Courier offers small glimpses of their lives:

In 1887, the family spent the summer in Northport.


That same year, George secured a gold watch from the 99 cent store!

1887 George

In 1892, seven year old Mattie was awarded 25 cents for her crochet work.

Mattie crochet

Is 1893, George fell ill, and had someone temporarily take over his studio.  He recovered, and had planned to spend the summer at the Warren A. Bragg cottage in Islesboro, an island off the coast of Maine. They instead used Col. F. Pullen’s as the Bragg’s cottage had been damaged by fire.

Lansil sick

1893 vacation



In 1895, Mrs. George was in business as a Cook.


I am including the next article from 1896  because I find it humorous that they mention the weights of the six sisters who George photographed.

1896 picture

In 1900, George and Ella are residing in Bangor with their daughter and George’s father; by 1910 they were alone with two borders. A 69 year old George is listed as a photographer. The 1920 census places George (now listed as age 83) and Ella (age 76) in Bangor, neither are working but they have nine lodgers.

Although rejected a number of times, George and Ella continue to apply for a pension from 1916 until George’s death, claiming he is incapacitated from performing manual labor and destitute of property and income and having to rely on his wife and friends for support:


George’s daughter Martha married a Canadian, Endymion “John” Christopher Richardson on 11 Jun 1908, thus losing her US Citizenship. The pair initially resided in Bangor.  Endymion worked as a Clerk for the Railroad.  Martha gave birth to one child who had died by 1910.  By 1920,  they had a second child, Helen M., age 5.  In both censuses, Martha’s widowed mother-in-law is enumerated in the same household.  By 1930, she was no longer with them and the family of three had relocated to Hampden, Maine. In 1940, the couple owned a home in Bangor valued at $2,000. Their daughter by that time had married Gordon Danforth.

George died of a Cerebral Hemorrhage, 14 Jul 1926. After his death, Ella was able to collect a small pension based on the service of her first husband.


Ella died on 6 Feb 1930; Endymion on 9 Jun 1961 and Martha on 22 Jan 1970; all four are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor.

52 Ancestors Week #31 – Shipmasters and Mariners

No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”


I have written extensively of the Lansil and Haines families, an interesting bunch, many of whom made their livelihood on the sea, a thrilling, albeit grueling and dangerous career choice.  The Lansil patriarch, Charles V. Lansil drowned off the shore of Bar Harbor, Maine. One of the Haines boys, James, was lost at sea 50 miles from Cape Ann while taking in the foresail in a gale of wind. Another, Alex Haines, lost his life, serving our country, when the Ticonderoga was torpedoed in WWI.

The “Captain Lansils” were all associated with Bangor area vessels (one exception below is the Curtis Tilton). The  information in the table was compiled mostly from digitized vessel registers available through Mystic Seaport’s Library page, but also drawn from the articles, indexes and sources provided by the Maine Maritime Museum.  There were variations in spelling of both captains’ names and vessel names.

Captain Vessel Approximate dates of command
Charles V. Lansil Nellie Carr (schooner) 1869-1875
Charles V. Lansil Sch CV Lansil, Havener Jan 1853 damaged on way to Cuba
James P. Lansil Adeline Hamlin (I) (schooner) ?-1846
Adeline Hamlin (II) (schooner) 1846-1864
Ocean Wave (schooner) 1867-1875
Ada W. Gould (schooner) 1875-1876
Edward P. Lansil Chimo (schooner) 1871-1877
Curtis Tilton (schooner) 1881-1884
Joseph M. Hayes (schooner) 1885-1886
Anna E. J. Morse (schooner) 1886-1891
Unknown Lansil West Wind (schooner) 1856, 1857
Unknown Lansil Mary Lymburner (schooner) 1869-1873
Unknown Lansil Abbie E. Willard (schooner) 1870-1875
Unknown Lansil Apphia (Cld Ship) Shipping News, October 19, 1835

James P. “Jim” Lansil, sixth child of Charles V. and Ruth (Paine) Lansil, born in Bangor, Maine, 30 Sept 1918 (my 3rd great grand uncle), was one of the fortunate.

james lansil

James first married, 4 Feb 1838, Martha Colby, daughter of Timothy Colby and Mary Mayhew.  In a pension file, Martha’s sister Ann (who married James’ nephew Charles Lansil), swears that although she did not attend the marriage ceremony, she knows they were married and did run into the couple the next day.  She also claims that she was present when their son Elbridge was born.

marriage colby

They had seven known children: George, John F., Elbridge T., Francis S., Arthur J., Oscar, and Edward P.



Martha died in Oct 1855.

Martha death

James married second 27 Dec 1857, Mrs. Thankful S. Mitchell (likely the surname of her first husband as she is given the title “Mrs”; according to the 1880 census she had a twin sister Eliza B. Nash; her maiden name may have been Rowe), with whom he had no known children. She died in 1887.

James bio


wallet stolen

Pension Application

James applied for a father’s pension under the act of 1890 which he felt was due him from his deceased son Elbridge’s service.  His application was rejected. The pension file is filled with affidavits of friends, neighbors and relatives and provides many details of James’ life.


Lansil_Elbridge_001 Lansil_Elbridge_002 Lansil_Elbridge_003 Lansil_Elbridge_004 Lansil_Elbridge_005 Lansil_Elbridge_006 Lansil_Elbridge_007 Lansil_Elbridge_008  Lansil_Elbridge_010 Lansil_Elbridge_011  Lansil_Elbridge_013  Lansil_Elbridge_015 Lansil_Elbridge_016 Lansil_Elbridge_017 Lansil_Elbridge_018 Lansil_Elbridge_019 Lansil_Elbridge_020 Lansil_Elbridge_021 Lansil_Elbridge_022 Lansil_Elbridge_023 Lansil_Elbridge_024 Lansil_Elbridge_025 Lansil_Elbridge_026 Lansil_Elbridge_027 Lansil_Elbridge_028 Lansil_Elbridge_029 Lansil_Elbridge_030 Lansil_Elbridge_031 Lansil_Elbridge_032 Lansil_Elbridge_033 Lansil_Elbridge_034 Lansil_Elbridge_035 Lansil_Elbridge_036 Lansil_Elbridge_037 Lansil_Elbridge_038 Lansil_Elbridge_039 Lansil_Elbridge_040 Lansil_Elbridge_041 Lansil_Elbridge_042 Lansil_Elbridge_043 Lansil_Elbridge_044 Lansil_Elbridge_045 Lansil_Elbridge_046 Lansil_Elbridge_047 Lansil_Elbridge_048 Lansil_Elbridge_049 Lansil_Elbridge_050 Lansil_Elbridge_051


James died 16 June 1902 at Snug Harbor, an institution to care for “aged, decrepit and worn-out” seamen, a 130-acre plot on Staten Island overlooking the Kill Van Kull, founded through a bequest after the death of Revolutionary War soldier and ship master Captain Robert Richard Randall. At its peak in the late 19th century, about 1,000 retired sailors lived at Snug Harbor, then one of the wealthiest charities in New York (

Our James is listed in the index of the Snug Harbor collection as James Lansie –

James admittance

1) Lansie, James P.
Inmate No.: 3465
Admission App.: Y; Admission Date: 6/29/1901
Death Certificate: Y; Date of Death: 6/16/1902
Medical Record: Y; Social Record: N
Photograph: N; Citizenship Certificate: N
Any Correspondences: none; Readmitted?: No Information
Miscellaneous Documents: none
snug harbor paperwork
Upon being admitted, he reported having had Rheumation and Malaria. He was described as have issues with Senility and Chronic Intestinal Nephritis and was feeble.  He was aged and worn out; a widower with two living sons.His first voyage at sea was from Bangor, Maine to Providence, Rhode Island on the Sch. James laden with lumber in 1830.  His final voyage was on the Ada Gould in 1877.  Total sea service was 45 years – 20 years Foreign Trade/20 years Coastwise. His employers, all of Bangor, were Joseph Oakes, John Cassidy, James Littlefield and Daniel Green.
He retired from the sea at age 60, then for 5 summers he was in charge of the buildings at the Eastern Maine Fair. He then, for several years, sold silver polish to residents in Bangor.  At time of admittance he owned no property and had no means of support. He mentions that he tried to obtain a pension, unsuccessfully, for the death of a son in the Army of Rebellion [Civil War] He had no other source of income.At the time of his death, the following parties were notified:
– Geo. Lansil, 308 Center St., Bangor, Me. [son]
– Mrs Fannie Lansil Eames, 1187 St Marks Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. [James’s deceased son Edward, married Fannie Sarah Carr and had a daughter Edith who married Harrison Eames; in 1900 the three were residing together at this address – this likely refers to Fannie Carr Lansil or Edith Lansil Eames or both].
– Oscar Lansil, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Returned [son]
– Miss Ada W. Gould, Albany, N.Y. Care Geo. B. Adams [step-granddaughter]
His personal effects included: 1 pckge letters, 2 walking sticks, 2 pen knives, 2 pr scissors, 3 books, 13 photos, 2 razors, 3 tea spoons, 1 shaving brush,  1 blacking brush, 1 purse, 1 razor strip, 1 shaving mug, letters and papers, 2 handkerchiefs, 1 pr spectacles, 1 silver watch, cash 14 cents.
personal effects
Click on the links below to view additional documents:
The New York Tribune, on 6 July, published a tribute on the front page:


Distressing Experience of Sea Captain Who Died Recently at Sailor’s Snug Harbor

Bangor, Me., July 5 (Special) – Captain James P. Lansil, of Bangor, the oldest of all Maine’s retired mariners, died last week at the Sailor’s Snug Harbor. Staten, N.Y., where he had peacefully spent the closing days of a life filled with perils and the hard toll of the sea. Captain Lansil would have been eighty-six years old in September but until his last illness he walked with a firm step and his eye was as bright as when he went on on his first trip to the sea more than sixty years ago. This old sailor was very different from the common run of shipmasters, for, although he had been through many exciting adventures and visited nearly every important port in the world, he was not at all given to spinning yarns, never drank a drop of liquor in his life, never used tobacco in any form and never was heard to utter a profane word.

The story of Captain Lansil’s adventures afloat would make a book, but the only thing that ever appeared in print concerning his voyaging was a little paragraph, published in the newspapers in the fall of 1876, announcing the loss at sea of the schooner Ada W. Gould, of Bangor.  Of his experiences on that occasion, Captain Lansil never gave any extended account until last fall, when, in a drouth, some one remarked what a dry time it was and how Maine was suffering for water. At this, Captain Lansil spoke up, saying;

“What, water? Why, there’s water enough here! How would you like to go nine days without a single drop of water?”

That brought out the story of the loss of the Ada W. Gould, upon which the Captain had always preserved silence, disliking to recall his awful experiences when he lost his vessel. It was the first narrative of the tragedy in midocean, in which two men were drowned, while five others came near to death, being rescued after fourteen days on a wreck, nine days of which they suffered the tortures of thirst, while for the entire period they scarcely had a morsel to eat.

It was on August 16, 1876 that the Ada W. Gould, a centerboard schooner of 150 tons, sailed from New York with a general cargo for Rio Grande do Sul, South America. Her company consisted of Captain James P. Lansil, master; Charles Wyatt, mate; Arthur Lansil, son of the Captain as steward; Oscar Lansil, another son of the captain and two seamen.  She also carried a passenger, John Coler, of Chicago.

On August 25, nine days out, when the vessel was well to the southeast of Bermuda, she took a heavy gale from the south-southeast. Being a new vessel, she stood up under it very well until the afternoon of the 27th, when the seas began to come aboard, thundering upon her decks as though bound upon sinking her. The glass ran down rapidly, and then, becoming alarmed, Captain Lansil ordered the men forward to come aft. The gale developed into a hurricane at sunset, and the schooner was hove to under a double reefed mainsail, while lifelines were strung and the word passed for every man on deck to lash himself fast.

At 9:53 o’clock that night Captain Lansil was below trying to quiet the fears of the passenger, Coler, when a great commotion on deck startled him, and he went up to see what was going on. A water cask had broken from its lashings and was banging across decks at a fearful rate, threatening to knock out the bulwarks. The cask was secured, and Captain Lansil remained on deck, the rest of the watch consisting of Mate Wyatt and one seaman.  Had Captain Lansil remained below with the passenger he would not have lived to tell the story. Five minutes after he came on deck the vessel was on her beam ends, and Coler, the passenger was penned in the captain’s room, where they had been talking.  The room being on the lee side he was drowned.

It was just 10 o’clock when the watch on deck saw a terrible sea coming straight for the vessel. It was a hollow comber, with a streak of yellow foam glittering along its lofty crest. It rushed along with the speed of a cyclone and broke upon the little schooner with a crash that shook her from keel to trunk. Captain Lansil said that this comber beat anything he had ever seen in all his long experience towering at least fifty feet in the air. The shock when this sea struck the Ada W. Gould was frightful. In an instant the foremast was whipped out of her, taking with it the forward house, and tearing a big hole in the deck. The schooner was knock on her beam ends as if she were a toy, and there she remained for an hour, until the men could get an axe and cut away the weather main rigging, which done the mainmast snapped off like a pipestem, and she righted.

The two Lansil boys and the other sailor, who were below, managed to get out of the house through the windows , after stripping off their clothing; but Coler, the passenger, was helpless in his stateroom, under hundreds of tons of water. The gale continued to increase in fury and the men on deck lashed themselves to the house.  Then there was nothing to do but wait and pray for rescue.  Every cask of water had been swept away, and the was no food within reach while the tremendous seas swept the wreck, which now, half full of water, had settled so the decks were awash.

On the second day, Oscar Lansil, with a rope tied around him went down into the cabin to search for whatever morsels of food might be there.  The corpse of the drowned passenger was washing about in  the cabin, the stateroom doors having been stove in by the seas, and young Lansil had to fight off this ghastly battering ram while he looked about for something to eat.  Finally he secured a can of corn and a few small salted and dried fish. This food was quickly devoured by the starving men, and then, their thirst increased by the salt in the fish, the sufferers cried aloud to heaven for water.  There was no water. The sky gave not a drop, and the vessel’s cask had all been stove or washed away.

At 8 o’clock that morning, Wyatt, the mate, was lost.  He disregarded the captain’s orders to keep himself lashed and went poking around in the waist, where a big sea caught and swept him overboard.  His shipmates saw him drown, without being able to move a hand to save him.

For five days the five survivors suffered awful tortures and then on the sixth day after the wreck one of the men found a harpoon iron. With this they split off a piece of the companionway slide,  of which they made a handle for the harpoon. The seas had stove off the hatches and Captain Lansil remembered that directly under the after hatch the stevedores had place a lot of condensed milk in boxes.  Here was hope! The first drive of the harpoon brought up a box of the milk, and on that the men feasted greedily.  It was all heavy and sweet, however, and made them all sick.

On the eighth day they were tantalized by a steamer coming within an eighth of a mile and passing without noticing them.  It was 2 o’clock in the morning and they had no lights to show.  When the steamer had faded away in the night, the crew raved and cursed and Captain Lansil himself, calm and unexcitable  man that he was, declared afterward that he thought he would go mad when the big ship passed him by.

On the ninth day came a blessing from heaven – a heavy shower. The men got a bale of sheeting from the cargo tore it up and soaked the cloth in the rain, then wringing it into a half barrel which they managed to catch from the drifting raffle in the waist. In this way, they got plenty of water. They drank until they were stupid, their stomachs becoming painfully distended.

Rescue came at last on the fourteenth day after the wreck. At 6 o’clock in the morning the pitiful group on the Ada W. Gould’s quarter gave a shout of joy, for there, full abeam, was a stately clipper ship under full sail standing directly for them. She was the Golden State of New-York, Captain Delano from New York for Shanghai.  She took them off, and all except Captain Lansil went along in her to Shanghai he being transferred a few days afterward to the British brig Courser, from Port Elizabeth C. G. H. for Swansea.

Captain Lansil came home to Bangor in December, his sons following in June. None of them have been on salt water since the loss of the Ada W. Gould marking the closing of history at sea of the most famous family of shipmasters that ever sailed from Bangor.  Three of the six Lansil boys were captains, and one of them Charles V. Lansil, now dead, followed the sea for sixty-one years, forty-four years of that time as master.

ada gould story2

The article reporting the loss, reveals that the vessel was built by Messrs Joseph Oakes & Son (Capt. George Oakes, who sailed one or more of the ships built by his father) of Brewer, Maine in 1875 and was owned in part by James Lansil with Joseph Oakes and others.

Newspaper obituary, 1881:

Death of Joseph Oakes. We regret to announce, this morning, the death of Joseph Oakes, Esq., which occurred in Brewer yesterday at the age of about sixty six years. Probably no man on the river had a wider circle of acquaintances, or was more highly esteemed by all who have ever had business intercourse with him, than Mr. Oakes. Engaged for the past forty years in the business of building and repairing vessels, his enterprise and energy have probably made business for more men in his line of business than any other man upon the river. In times of depression, when no one else could be found with sufficient courage to lay the keel of a vessel, he has gone forward and laid keel after keel, giving employment to many men, and support to many families who otherwise knew not where to look during the long winter months either for employment or support. He was a man whose integrity was never questioned, but all who dealt with him gave him the credit of being a thoroughly honest man. He will be much missed and deeply lamented, not only by his fellow townsmen of Brewer, but by a widely extended circle of acquaintance. His funeral will take place from his late residence in Brewer on Sunday at two o’clock in the afternoon. Masters of vessels in port are requested to display their colors at half-mast on the day of the funeral.

This article further claims that the Lansil boys on-board were James’ son and a nephew (the later version of the story names two sons, which I believe to be correct).  Lansil, a sea captain for 30+ years had been a master who owned part of each ship he sailed for twenty years. He was an esteemed citizen of Bangor.

sink ada

It seems that neither boy returned to sea; James’ son Arthur became a painter and died, age 38, after inhaling paint fumes. Oscar lived to age of 85 having become a restaurateur and carpenter.

boy lansil deaths

Several years ago, the g-g-grandaughter of mate Russell Charles Wyatt, messaged me: “Just wanted to let you know that by posting the Boston Daily Globe article from 1876 on the schooner Ada W. Gould, you helped me solve the frustrating mystery of exactly where and how my great-great grandfather, Russell C. Wyatt, was lost at sea. He was also a schooner captain from Bangor, but apparently was a mate on your relative’s (CAPT James Lansil’s) ship, the Ada W. Gould, in late 1876”.

No further information was found on Chicago passenger John Coler/Coller.

Likely, the schooner Ada W. Gould was named for James’ (step) granddaughter of the same name, who at age 12 is found living with him at 32 Lincoln Street, Bangor, in 1880; she would have been about 8 when the tragedy occurred. I do not believe her to be blood related. Ada is likely the daughter of Flora Mitchell (1838-1880) and Peltiah Winter Gould, Flora was James’ second wife Thankful’s daughter from her previous marriage. Ada is mentioned as residing in Albany, New York in James’s Snug Harbor paperwork, her whereabouts after 1902 are unknown.

Ada W gould census

Using Newspapers to Learn of Ancestors Lives and Times

Newspaper articles can reveal amazing details of your ancestors’ lives and personalities. As with all documents, there may be errors; always seek primary sources to confirm details.

Most online newspaper sites use optical character recognition (OCR). OCR is not perfect, For example r n is often read as m,  l is often t and vice versa,  p can be read as a y.  I try to look for letters that look similar to each other or that perhaps look like another letter when close to each other.  For example, Thorn could be interpreted as Thom.  So a search for “John Thorn” may come up null, but by changing the search to “John Thom” you may get some hits. Sometimes the OCR technology doesn’t work , especially if the paper is dark or the letters smeared.

For better results search on something other than a name. Find a street address in the census or street directory, then search for that address, like  “32 Lincoln” AND Bangor or “Lansil of Bangor”.

Look for the weather report on the date they were married or the day they stepped outside at Ellis Island; what were the headlines that day?; how interesting to know what your family was experiencing on those special days.  Browse papers published in their lifetime to learn of current news and events in their hometown, the cost of shoes, apples, horse carriages or homes.

Using date constraints might exclude pertinent results, I have found a number of ancestors in articles published as “XX years ago today”; one offering a detailed description of an ancestor’s home; another reuniting a grown woman with the policeman  and who rescued her as an infant, and recounting the story.

Search on their occupations in the area where they resided, and consider that sometimes other locations may have picked up stories relevant to your ancestors. A search on the keywords “Bangor” and “Sailor” revealed an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, 7 Sept 1902 which offers some insight into the life of a Maine sailor.


Of all the sailors on the sea, the down east coaster does the hardest work, braves the greatest dangers and gets the poorest rewards. His occupation has aptly been described as “tempting fate at $25 a month”. The coaster is an unsung hero, but he is unconscious of that and would call it square if freights were fairly good from Bangor to Boston and there were not more than ten consecutive days of easterly wind in any one month.

The Maine coaster is a queer mixture of sailor, farmer and business man and frequently he is also an expert deep sea fisherman. Many of the masters of the little schooners have in their younger days sailed round and round the world finally settling down in some seacoast village and buying a small craft of which they can be at once the managing owner and skipper and in which they can make a living by eight months sailing, hauling the vessel up and taking comfort at home from Thanksgiving to Christmas till spring. Some of the masters sail vessels owned by other people, either for a stated salary or “on shares” and occasionally it happens that the vessel is sort of a family affair, being manned and owned by father and sons or by brothers.  In times of disaster, this arrangement is quite unfortunate, for when the vessel goes down, the whole family is likely to go with her, leaving behind a pitiful array of widows and orphans. Such a case occurred in the loss of the schooner Ella Brown, several of the Peabody family of Jonesport having gone down in that vessel in the great November northeaster last year.

 The natives of the Maine coast towns and of the islands that are strewn along shore from Portland to Quoddy Head are among the finest sailors in the world. They are sailors from force of circumstance, hardy from inheritance and “cute” because they are Yankees.  No other men could make a living coasting out of these waters, and how the natives do it is a source of wonder to everyone who ever studied the subject. The coaster begins “going” when he is 12 or 14 years old and quits when he is too old to stand a watch at the wheel, if he manages to stay above water for that long.  Man or boy, he is generally lank and lean, with a skin like leather, a constitution of iron and a capacity to endure hardships without complaint.  His vessel is generally of great age and small size – 50 to 150 tons and 20 to 60 years old, rigged as a two masted schooner.  Generally she is a dull sailor and almost always she leaks like a basket.  Only the fact that she carries lumber accounts for her being so long afloat – hundreds of the old hookers now going would have been on bottom long ago only their cargoes wouldn’t let them sink.

An average size coaster trading between Maine ports and Boston carries a master, mate, one seaman and a “cook and hand”; many of them make trips from Bangor to Boston with but two or three men all told, and last summer, the schooner Angler, 80 tons was navigated from Boston to Calais and half-way back again by her master single handed.  The coaster’s cargo is, nine times in ten, lumber, and she gets $1.50 to $1.75 a thousand feet for carrying it from Bangor to Boston.  Out of this, she has to pay for loading and discharging, for towages, commissions to brokers, crew’s wages and stores.  The stores are salk pork, salt codfish, molasses, potatoes, baking powder and kerosene; there may be a chunk or two of corned beef, and in the fall of the year the skipper will add cabbages, apples, onions, etc., to the menu but at no time is the fare so rich or varied as to worry the cook or invite the gout. A man who wants to “go” must be both strong and willing, not only to reef, band and steer, but to work cargo as well, for it frequently happens that there are no stevedores available or that the skipper is unwilling to pay for loading and discharging. If the man sailing before the mast manages to put in six months in a year at $25, a month, he is doing as well as the average of coasters; the mate and the “cook” and “hand” get a little more and the captain gets whatever circumstances, weather-luck and his business abilities allow. This may be considerable or it may be nothing at all.

Occasionally it happens that a man gets rich at coasting, but this is when he gets a start in the world through superior business ability or seamanship or through friends who put him into one of those maritime marvels – the new style twentieth century coasters, four, five or six masted. The Coombse’s and Pendleton’s of Penobscot Bay and the Crowley’s of Massachusetts are of this cass, and Captain “Linc” Jewett of Portland is also a shining example. 

Several other families have accumulated wealth in the shipping business. The great majority, however, remain poor and take their chances in vessels that have the poorest possible reputations in underwriters’ offices. 

The awful risks taken by the men who go to sea in the old-fashioned coasters are set forth with tragic brevity in the wreck reports.  In the eighteen months ending December 3, 1899, 221 sailing vessels hailing from New England posts, mostly from Maine and Massachusetts, were lost, nearly all on the New England coast, and with them 255 lives.  The majority of these disasters occurred in one gale – that of November 1898 the like of which may not be experienced again in a lifetime and may come any day.

When a winter gale strikes one of the big new schooners she doesn’t mind it so much, being strong and able, and well manned and found. If necessary she can put to sea and run before it, coming on again at leisure.  She will be dry as a ship, and there will be no lack of food or water; she had steam engines to pull and haul, steam pumps to fight a leak, even steam to blow her for horn, and the man at the wheel stands often beside a steam radiator in a wheel house protected by plate glass windows.  But the little, old fashioned coaster, loaded decks with green lumber, worse still with coal, she is overwhelmed by the northeaster; her old sails and rigging are not fit to stand such weather, and when she springs a leak, as inevitably she must, her few tired men, haggard from loss of sleep, with empty stomachs and frostbitten fingers, must rack their weary frames at pumps in a desperate battle with death.  Too often death wins. If the wreck comes ashore there will be some few details of the tragedy; if not, then the people at home only know that the vessel sailed and never returned. This latter fate is the bitterest of all, for it keeps the wives and mothers waiting and hoping for weeks and months after everyone else has given up. 

There seems to be no such thing as breaking a coaster’s nerve.  The same men who have looked death in the face a dozen times, will go again, without thought apparently. 

The article continues, describing of a number of Maine sea captains.  James Lansil and the Ada W. Gould included.  The article reveals that James’ brother, likely Charles V., advised against the journey. It further claims that although the shipwreck did not break James’ spirit it broke his health, thus he never sailed again.

ada gould story

James owned property valued at $1,500 in 1870, a bit on the low end in comparison to many of his neighbors, a few of whom had estates valued over $10,000; but he was a homeowner (probate records indicate that some Lincoln Street property was also in Thankful’s name, additional research is needed but perhaps from her parents or first husband).  In any case, would like to believe that while not wealthy, our Lansil’s were good hardworking men who made a comfortable living for their families.


thankful land

Next, in the Lewiston Evening Journal – Jun 23, 1917, an article recollecting Bangor in days gone by…..,4649213

Reflections on a Deserted Fort

A man who spent his boyhood along the wharves of Bangor when this was one of the greatest lumber ports of the world, went down to get a look at the river the other day and saw, where formerly was a forest of masts, two three-masters, seven two-masters, a couple of tugs and a few coal barges. Except for these. the long lines of wharves were deserted and decaying and the lonesome sight made the old-timer heart sick.

He could remember when he could walk from City Point to the lumber docks just below Bangor bridge upon the decks of vessels moored there in a tier, with lines out astern to the piers and anchors in the stream; when there was another tier of vessels at the old Maine central wharves below Railroad street; when ships and barks were moored to the old toll bridge tiers, while the Brewer shore was lined with vessels moored at the wharves, repairing at the yards, and docks or anchored on the flats; when half a dozen busy sawmills below the city each had a considerable fleet loading and when High Head docks flew the flags of all nations, on all sorts of craft from the squat Italian Brig to the proud Yankee ships fresh from the yards of Bath, Belfast, Camden and Thomaston. 

Also he could remember when the river was so choked with coasters that William Connors, king of the log drivers, had hard work to get his   rafts down to the mills and the “scull-oar” men engaged in vigorous exchange of compliments with the obstructors of the channel, whie Capt. Sam Jordan, with C.B. Sanford, greatest of all the river tugs, or the famous Ralph Ross, noted for her pulling power dragged lumber laden fleets, often 20 sail at a time, down the river, swinging the tows in tiers of four or five as easy as the tugmen of today move one vessel. He remembered too, when, when as a harbormaster’s boy, he was often sent post haste Ross & Howell’s office to get a tug to clear the channel so that Capt. Otis Ingraham could get in and out with the famous and fast steamer Cambridge or Captain Roix could squeeze the old Katahdin through the maze of anchored shipping.   Often the sailing vessels, the steamboats and the log tows would get mixed to a tangle that gave the tugboats and Harbor Master Charles V. Lansil a hard job to clear up, and the volume of energetic elegance expended on those occasions would be enough to keep the politicians going thru a long campaign. 

Where Bangor once had vessels in the hundreds it now has them in twos and threes.  Then vessels waited for berths; now the berths wait for vessels. Boarding houses lined Front, lower Broad and Union streets, whereun deep-water sailors from the four corners of the world ate and drank their merry fill and sang lifting, songs of the sea. Today the boarding houses are inhabited by woodsmen and laborers, a sailorman is a rare being in parts.

Time was when Exchange street was to Bangor what South street is to New York. In the palmy day of Bangor’s port the street was with the offices of ship brokers, lumber manufacturers and ship agents and the stores of ship builders, the towboat office was a busy place, there were several sail ___ nearby and the neighborhood was redolent of the forests and the sea.  All these and more were along exchange street, but few of them are left. Today they are occupied by clothing stores, barber shops, shooting galleries, mobile showrooms and other businesses all very different…It speaks of Vincent Willard’s “little shop” over at the ferryway with its doughnuts jumbles and milk and soft beer, famous sweet apples….

The article continues, naming and describing some of Bangor’s characters… It names the old shipmasters, including the Lansil’s, Charles and James – “all of whom would starve to death now”.

Bangor waterfront

1880 – Penobscot River, Bangor from the Brewer Bridge, looking down river at the rafts of cut long lumber, ready for shipping. Schooners on both sides of the river are waiting on loads (


R2012.8.51, Frank Claes Collection, Bangor, Maine in 1880. Thirty five vessels at the mouth of the Kenduskeaag stream, near site of Union Station. Box cars, train tracks and lumber piles.

Tug Bismark towing lumber schooners

1890 – Tug Bismark off Odom’s Ledge, Fort Point, towing six schooners up the Penobscot River to Bangor (

Newspapers I use most often:

Fulton History (free)- which has 26,800,000 mostly Old New York State Historical Newspaper Pages, all searchable (I have noticed a few Pennsylvania papers).

Library of Congress (free) –, Chronicling America, America’s historic newspaper pages from 1836-1922.

Google News (free) –

Boston Public Library (free with library card) –; most larger libraries will have similar database access for library card holders for use in library or from home

Remember that there are offline searchable newspapers as well. The Malden Public Library in Massachusetts has old copies of the Malden Evening News on microfilm.  While not searchable, I was able to find birth, marriage and death notices by collecting vital records and searching newspapers a week before and after those dates.

Penn Libraries has a nice summary of historic newspapers available by state –

%d bloggers like this: