Posts Tagged ‘Asa Paine Lansil’

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


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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.

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The defendant excepted [objected].

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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.


52 Ancestors Week #29 – Update of “The Insane”

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.”


In week # 24, I wrote of Jane Catherine (Roberts) Lansil, my g-g-grandmother of Lanfairfechan, Wales: Week #24


The previous week #23, I had written of her husband, my g-g-grandfather Edwin Lansil: Week #23

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Both spent time and died in the Boston Insane Hospital. I was interested to know more. Asylum records are closed in Massachusetts forever. Yes, forever!  The state will release medical records if you (essentially) sue them or if you are named as the deceased’s estate administrator in probate court (assuming the deceased did not already have an estate that was settled through probate, which they did not). From William Bailey, Director of Privacy & Compliance, Department of Mental Health, 25 Staniford Street, Boston , MA 02114. (617) 626-8163 :

“Unfortunately, due to privacy law constraints imposed upon DMH by federal and state laws and regulations, including but not limited to so-called HIPAA laws, DMH can only release Protected Health Information [PHI] regarding its clients under very limited circumstances. DMH cannot even confirm whether an individual ever received DMH services unless those circumstances are satisfied.

For a deceased client or patient, DMH may only release records pursuant to a valid Court Order or upon written authorization from the client’s Executor or Administrator of the client’s estate. This is true even for very old records. Also, even if there was a Court Order or Probate Court authorization available, it is possible that any records from 1991 and prior (if they even existed in the first place) may have been lawfully destroyed. State regulations permit the destruction of impatient records older than twenty (20) years old.

Accordingly, we are unable to provide the information you requested. Although you may seek court authority, by Court Order or Probate appointment, to request those records, it is possible that such records did not exist or were lawfully destroyed. DMH is not permitted to advise you in advance of a Court Order or Probate appointment whether any records can be located”

The lawyer with whom I consulted, quoted $1,600 ($800 of which is the fee to file in probate court – $400 for each filing). Unless I go through the costly process to be named the estate administrator, it is illegal for the hospital who holds the records to look in their file cabinet (or boxes in the basement) to tell me if records exist!  Thus, a large expense that may reveal nothing.

I was hoping to gain further information through the Freedom of Information Act and had written several (to date, unanswered) letters to my State Representative, Dan Ryan. Bill Bailey did respond:

I respect the concern and frustration that you have articulated in your letter.  However, rest assured that the only legal way that DMH may release these records to you is upon receipt of a valid Court Order, or upon the authorization of a person duly appointed by a Probate Court as Administrator or Administrator.

Massachusetts state law specifically prohibits release of DMH medical records states (except in specific circumstances not present here), “notwithstanding any other provision of law.”   See Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 123, Section 36. 

Under the Freedom of Information Act and the state Public Records Law, DMH records are not “public records” and accordingly these laws do not serve as a basis for release. do not apply to “non-public records” in any event, and cannot be invoked to obtain otherwise protected private records.  Chapter 123, Section 36 specifically notes that DMH inpatient records “are private and not open to public inspection….”

In addition, the statute that you invoke, asking that the hospital treat you as Executor/Administrator, does not actually grant that authority.  Rather, on a very limited basis, it allows the hospital to liquidate estate assets as if the hospital were the Executor/Administrator (without ever becoming appointed by the Probate Court).  DMH does not have any authority to release records under this law, and most certainly does not have the ability to transfer its limited authority under this statute to third parties.  The ability to authorize release of records as the personal representative of a deceased client is limited to an appointment by the Probate Court.

DMH is bound by the current law; it cannot release records by any other means.  This may seem unfair or burdensome, especially for older records.  But the needs of our particular client population to always consult freely and openly with their mental health care providers — without fear that the sensitive nature of their histories and diagnoses might one day be revealed without their permission — has very practical relevance.

I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful in responding to your request.

I did find the Hospital’s asylum intake records on microfilm at the Family History Library (for $7.50, I ordered the films and had them delivered to NEHGS in Boston for viewing).

FHL insane

intake records

Edwin was admitted 20 Nov 1903 and remained there until his death 11 July 1904 of “Exhaustion of Senile Insanity”.

Jane Catherine was first admitted 26 July 1897 and discharged 22 February 1898.

She was again admitted 23 March 1907, no death is noted, as the record book only dates to 1907; her death certificate indicates that she died there, 25 years later on 30 May 1932.

The admittances were through “Prob” (probate).

This confused me.  I had previously searched through the Suffolk County probate indexes and found nothing. I consulted with Rhonda McClure, at NEHGS, who suggested that they may be recorded in a different probate book vs. those referenced in the probate court indices and suggested I contact Elizabeth Bouvier, Head of Archives, MA Supreme Judicial Court,

Elizabeth’s initial response (within an hour of my inquiry), 3 July 2014 : “There are Suffolk County Probate Commitment records ; however, the index to the records was not located  as of 1986 when the records were moved from the Court to an offsite storage center.  The records are organized by case number and year. It may be awhile before you hear back from my office as to whether we can locate any records for your relatives”.

Two weeks later, 17 July 2014, Elizabeth emailed again: “For copies of the two records send $5.00 cash or check (payable: Commonwealth of MA) and a SASEnvelope sufficient to hold ten pieces of paper To: ARCHIVES, 3 Pemberton Sq., 16th Fl.  Boston, MA 02108-1701”

On Friday, 25 July 2014, the documents arrived! Shout out to Elizabeth and her team!  They are amazing!  This is the third time in the past several years that I asked for assistance and the third time that I have gotten almost instantaneous results!

Application for the Commitment for the Insane:
20 November 1903

White male, age 65, born Bangor, ME, occupation: surveyor, married.

He had no previous attacks; the present attack started one year ago, the attack was gradual and he has not previously been in an asylum.  His bodily condition is poor, likely due to an injury related to a fall in 1901.  The patient is “cleanly in dress and personal habits”.  

He is demented, restless, incoherent and destructive.  He had an insane father [wow! so Asa Paine Lansil was also insane at some point!].  His liquor, tobacco and opium habits are “good”.

Nearest relative: Wife, Jane C., 101 Maxwell St., Dorchester

Medical Certificate of Insanity: 
20 November 1903

He said: I began as long ago as got into. He talked very incoherently.

he said

The patient: Ate flour with a knife – kept walking about handling things. He was not properly dressed.

 His appearance and manner was: demented, incoherent, destructive.

Other facts: He has been failing mentally for some time. He is very restless, confused and at times violent and destructive [did he hurt his wife and/or children?].

Jane Catherine
Application for the Commitment for the Insane:
23 March 1907

White female, age 44, born Wales, occupation: housework

She had one previous attack, the present attack began 2 weeks ago.

She was at the Boston Ins. Hospital July 26, 1897 [does not specify if this is an admittance or discharge date].

The present attack was gradual; her bodily condition is fair. It is unknown if she has had previous physical injuries. The patient is “cleanly in dress and personal habits”.  She is depressed, deluded, possibly suicidal. There is no prior known family history of insanity.  Her liquor, tobacco and opium habits are “good”.

Nearest relative: Daughter, Mrs. Edward J. Thompson, Hiawatha Road, Mattapan

Medical Certificate of Insanity: 
23 March 1907
The patient said: “I feel alright. I feel as well as I ever did. I thought people had been stealing from me. To-day is Wednesday.  I don’t play cards – no need of it. I don’t want you to feel my pulse! I ____ there is no need of ____” [couldn’t read a few words].

The patient: Sat in chair; resisted being examined, hesitated in answering questions, and some questions would not answer at all. 

Her appearance and manner was: dull and confused. Untidy in appearance. Appears just as she did when insane before. 

Other facts: She was insane and a patient at Boston Insane Hospital in 1897. Since last August she has imagined people stealing from her. She was depressed and irritable. Has become worse the past few days. Is dull, confused, talks out of the window to people on the street. Sings at times and expresses various incoherent delusions. Obstinate and hard to manage.

So sad for their children.  Fanny was ten and Edith (my g-grandmother) only nine, the first time their mother entered the asylum in 1897.

Their father’s only sister was deceased; the girls resided with their father’s three bachelor brothers – Walter, Wilbur and Asa B.  Two of whom were traveling artists and another who was an alcoholic.  Their mother sisters were in Wales and Chicago. One grandmother was in Wales, the other deceased.

Florence May Bragg (b. 1868), their cousin who was taken in by the Lansil bachelor’s when their sister Francis Ellen “Fanny” (1841-1886) and her husband Carleton Sylvanus Bragg (1838-1880) died, seemingly the only woman in their lives, likely helped raise Fanny and Edith.


Jane Catherine lost two children, 9 month old Florence Paine in 1891 and Edwin Roberts at just 9 days old in 1894. Did it cause her depression/insanity?  Jane and Edwin’s youngest daughter Doris was born in 1899, two years after Jane’s was initially declared insane. Edwin died in 1903 when she was just four; Doris then lost her mother to “insanity” at age eight and was raised by her twenty year old sister Fanny.

Edmund may have had dementia and Jane Catherine schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or another type of mood disorder like clinical depression which today could be controlled by medication, offering her a normal life.

Photocopies of the documents:

2014-07-28 15.13.40 2014-07-28 15.14.10 2014-07-28 15.14.26 2014-07-28 15.14.34 2014-07-28 15.14.45 2014-07-28 15.14.52 2014-07-28 15.15.12 2014-07-28 15.15.25 2014-07-28 15.15.38 2014-07-28 15.15.45 2014-07-28 15.15.55 2014-07-28 15.16.01

52 Ancestors – Week #23, Edwin Lansil the not so famous brother….

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.”


Everyone in the family knows of “our” famous artist Walter Franklin Lansil, “Uncle Waddie”, and most are aware of his accomplished brother Wilbur Henry Lansil, “Bibber”.  Many of us have one or more of their paintings.  We speak of “our” bachelor Lansils at cocktail parties, when other family historians bring up the DAR/SAR, the Mayflower Society or their Indian Princess…. “We have a famous Venetian artist!,  His art sells like hotcakes!… Oh….and he does descend from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins and William Grout who fought in the Revolutionary War!”

2014 magazine article describing a Lansil that sold at auction

But what about their brother Edwin?, our direct descendant? Several of his descendants were named for him….but to be honest, I don’t think many of us know much about him (at least I didn’t). Edwin was my second g-grandfather (my paternal grandmother’s, maternal grandfather).


Edwin resided with his parents and four brothers Enoch, Walter, Asa & Wilbur (and most years his sister Frances) for his entire lifetime.  For that reason I include tidbits of all of these family members in his biography.

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Edwin Lansil, middle name unknown (possibly Paine), was the second known child born to Asa Paine Lansil and Betsey Turner Grout on 5 June 1839 in Bangor, Maine. On 9 July 1843, when Edwin was four and his sister Frances Ellen two, they were baptized at the Hammond Street Church in Bangor.


Older brother Enoch Howard, born 1 Dec 1835/6 (recorded both years in Bangor records) and baptized 25 Aug 1844 at the same church, died in youth (according to Sunday School admittance records on 22 Feb 1843; unknown if he was baptized after death or if one of the dates is inaccurate).


Enoch’s baptism, Hammond Street Church Records


Enoch’s Sabbath School Records, Hammond Street Church Records

Baptism records were not found for Walter, Asa or Wilbur.  Hammond Street Congregational Church was established in 1833, during an economic boom caused by the lumbering and shipping industries. A congregation of 71 members agreed to establish a brick structure west of the Kenduskeag Stream. Because building costs were running high, the building design was scaled back. In 1853/4 money was raised to renovate the exterior, lengthen and heighten the walls, and add the single spire.


From 1843 to 1848, Edwin’s family was living on 101 Hammond, a brick tenement in the Bangor neighborhood of Barkerville.  Asa’s brother Charles (wife Louisa and baby) lived at the same address.

By age eight, Edwin was attending the Hammond Street Sabbath School.


In 1850, he was listed as Edward P. Lansil (father Asa P. on Main Street) indicating that perhaps Edwin’s middle name was Paine.  No other records exist that mention a middle initial or name.


In 1850, an eleven year old Edwin was living in Bangor with his parents and siblings Francis E. (“Fannie”), Walter Franklin (“Waddie”) and Asa Brainard. Edwin’s father was a Cooper, with real estate valued at $1,000. In 1851 the family moved to Main St. (at the corner of Lincoln); Asa worked on 61 Broad St., perhaps with brothers James & Ephraim.



In 1854, Asa was in favor of electing a mayor who would vigorously enforced the Maine Law of Suppression of Intemperance (the state of Maine, under the efforts of the merchant Neal Dow, passed a prohibitory statute in 1851 outlawing the manufacture and sale of intoxicants).


On 6 June 1858, the day after his 19th birthday, Edwin became the 630th member of the Hammond Street Church.


That same year, he seemed to assist as a Sabbath School teacher (as did his father), then he returned to bible class.


By 1859, a 20 year old Edwin had become a cooper and part of his dad’s business; Asa’s assets had risen to $3,500. Betsey gave birth to another son in 1855, Wilbur Henry (known as “Bibber”). Asa’s sister, Mary (Lansil) Dudley died in 1856; and one of her children, Sarah Elizabeth Dudley, joined the family. Listed in the census as a domestic servant, was Melissa Paul, age 16 (perhaps a boarder or relative as her family lived next door to Asa’s brother Thomas Lansil in 1850).


The family lived on the west side of the Kenduskeag Stream (Main and Hammond Streets).


city dir


In 1860 Edwin was Asa’s only employee and made about $30 monthly. The father and son team produced barrels, buckets, water casks and cisterns. Asa had $200 invested in the business, and annually produced products valued at $1,000. In 1857, they sold to the town a cistern for $25, and horse buckets for $9. In 1861, for $23, they sold a cistern for the city stable . They do not appear in the Maine IRS tax lists from1862-6 (only Asa’s brothers Charles V. & George made the list), indicating that perhaps neither Edwin or Asa profited much in these years.


In 1861, Edwin was part of the town’s (volunteer) fire unit, Eagle Company No.3 (no known photo of Hose 3 exists, below are other Bangor stations in that era).



It was the time of the Civil War, several of Edwin’s relatives fought.  An unknown author writes: “The period of our life in Bangor was marked by the Civil War which although its active scenes were far away, sent its vibrations of anxiety & grief or of joy and triumph to our homes and our assemblies. How did we rejoice when Donelson fell! and when Gettysburg gave the decisive blow to rebellion! How did we mourn when – almost in the moment of victory – our great & good President was assassinated!” 


By 1870, Edwin had most likely relocated to Boston. He was not found in the 1870 census but in 1871 he is listed in the Bangor City Directory as living in East Boston.


The rest of the family was still living on 101 Hammond Street, Bangor in 1870. Asa’s net worth had risen to $5,500. Walter (then a cistern maker – was Asa Paine’s only employee, in a business now netting $1,200 annually) and Asa Brainard (clerk in store) had joined the now paid members of the fire department.



During this period, the lumber business was booming in Bangor.


In 1863 Edwin’s sister Fannie married a wealthy lumberman, Carleton Sylvanus Bragg, Jr., (in 1870 the 31 year old’s net worth was $35,000. Bragg’s dad Carleton, Sr., who died in Boston in 1876, also a lumber dealer was worth $50,000 that same year).  In 1870/1 Edwin, his brother-in-law Bragg (who also moved to Boston with his young family) and Henry Jones started a lumber business later described as “Successors to Jones and Co.”, a Steam Sawmill under the name “Jones, Bragg & Lansil” in East Boston. They purchased property for $2,146.37; four parcels totaling 5,625 feet on Maverick and Lamson (borrowing at 7%). According to advertisements in the local paper they dealt oak and yellow pine, car and ship stock, building material and all kinds spruce and pine lumber, shingles, laths, clapboards and pickets.

Lumber dealers

lansil bragg.jpg

businss in east boston

Their older partner Henry Jones was born 1811 in Maine. The small piece of Border Street waterfront between the north boundary of the Boston East site and Central Square was originally the site of Jones Wharf, apparently built about 1850 by Henry Jones, a lumber merchant in business with E. A. Abbott. He is found living in East Boston from about 1850 until his death in 1879. In 1850 as a timber dealer, 1860 a wealthy lumber dealer (his assets valued at $31,600, image below) and in 1870 as a dealer in ship timber. He seemed quite involved in town affairs.

Carlton’s obituary in the Bangor Daily Whig, 5 November 1880, page-3 summarizes their move:


Index to the City Council Minutes

Massachusetts Land Deeds – 7 Dec 1871, book 1082, pg 206-8 land purchase “Jones, Bragg & Lansil”

land deed

land deed2d9472639-b050-4140-945f-2b7dfdc46947

By January 1872 they had relocated their offices to 18 State Street and had added to their product line – Dimension Timber for Bridges and Wharves, Car and Ship Building.


The Lansil business was most likely established in East Boston to provide lumber to the booming ship building industry.

But, after the Civil War the ship building business collapsed.  Buyers favored steamers over wooden ships. World famous East Boston ship builder, Donald McKay (who lived on White Street near the Braggs) launched his last clipper in 1869 and closed his East Boston shipyards in 1875.

No records are found telling us what became of the Lansil/Bragg business and fortunes (the business is only listed in the 1871/2 directories and local newspaper advertisements are found through March 1872), but it is evident that a lumber business may not have been successful in this era.

In the 1870’s, the wealthy Yankee families, original settlers, when East Boston was a prosperous trading center and alluring vacation  resort left their homes for more fashionable addresses. Their “posh” homes were sold to developers who subdivided. Three family homes were erected in former lumber yards and other empty lots.

Much of the East Boston skilled population moved off the island to the recently opened “streetcar suburbs”. They were replaced by “cheaper” immigrants, mostly Irish, who flooded the community. The Lansil’s remained in East Boston longer than most.

Meanwhile, in 1871, the city assessed a $700 tax on the building that Asa rented, deeming the land more valuable due to street widening.   Perhaps this was a contributing factor in his decision to relocate.


Asa P. soon put the family horse, sleigh & robes and house on the market in preparation of the family’s move to Boston.


Asa P., Betsey, Walter, Asa B. and Wilbur all joined Edwin, Carleton and Frances in East Boston. They initially boarded at 119 Webster, East Boston (Fannie Lansil Bragg is on 39 White, East Boston). Soon Asa P. and Edwin purchased a home together for $5,600 on Trenton, at the corner of Putnam (lot 169, sec 3).


Massachusetts Land Deeds – book 1137, pg 179-180, 9 Dec 1872


Edwin, Asa B. and the Braggs initially lived together. When the rest of the family arrived in 1872, the Braggs relocated to White St., but by 1876 they rejoined the family on Trenton. Edwin is listed in city directories without an occupation from 1872-76.



The move to Boston sent Walter on his way to fame! A small sampling of some of the newspaper accounts of his activities:


159 Trenton Street as it looks in 2013


A full listing of Asa’s clan, including daughter Fannie Bragg’s family in the 1880 census:


Edwin, a lumber surveyor, had been unemployed for 4 months in the preceding year. Sadly, later in 1880, Fannie’s husband Carleton passed away suddenly on 1 Nov 1880 after being sick for just two days. The cause was apoplexy (sudden loss of consciousness, sensation, and voluntary motion).


The following year, on 3 March 1881, Edwin’s mother, Betsey Turner (Grout) Lansil, died of dropsey caused by scirrhus of the liver.  At the time of her death she was still living at 159 Trenton Street and was 67 years and 9 months. They buried Betsey at Mount Hope Cemetery, State Street, Bangor, ME Lot 407CG.

No probate records were found for her in Suffolk County. She does not have a gravestone.


In 1882 the entire family was still living together but, had relocated to Dorchester (with widowed sister Fannie Bragg and her children), most likely due to changing demographics (incoming immigrants) in East Boston. Dorchester was still a primarily rural town and had a population of 12,000 when it was annexed to Boston in 1870. Railroad and streetcar lines brought rapid growth, increasing the population to 150,000 by 1920.

At the end of the 19th century, Dorchester was described as follows: Its close proximity to the ocean, with refreshing breezes throughout the summer months, superb views from its elevated points of Boston Bay, and harbor of unrivalled beauty, combining the freedom and delights of the country with the advantages and privileges of the city, pure invigorating air, good drainage, –all these features are steadily drawing the most desirable class of home builders. Most of its territory is occupied by handsome and attractive private residences, with extensive grounds, beautiful lawns, and shade trees around them.


The 1882 through 1886 city directories indicate that perhaps Asa P. owned the home on Milton Avenue.  No entry was found in Suffolk County land indexes to support this – all of his sons and presumably the Braggs continued to reside in the same household. Edwin seemed to be unemployed 1881-3 and then worked as a lumber surveyor 1884-6 :


Milton Ave corner Fuller 2013 – Very near to 101 Maxwell Street; the homestead purchased by brother Walter in 1886.


Walter’s popularity continued to grow. Coleman, Lewis & Co., a small wares company where Wilbur was a shipper for years, dissolved in late 1882. Wilbur decided on a career change and joined his brother as an artist. In August 1884, the brothers set off for Europe; family lore says Edwin funded their jaunts across the sea to study and paint.  Unlikely, given Edwin’s lack of employment – more likely funding was from Walter auctioning off his artwork to prominent citizens.

Construction Update



Partial letter written by Natalie (Haines) Thomson to her sister Marion:


In February 1886, Edwin and Asa P. (both unmarried) sell their interest in the Trenton/Putnam Street East Boston home to Walter for consideration of $1.  Walter is to assume payment of the mortgage to Betty McIntosh, $3,500 plus interest (Walter resold 4 years later to Albert E. Low a local Grocer who grew up in East Boston, a newlywed and fellow Mason,  for consideration of $1 and assumption of the mortgage – still $3,500, plus interest).


In March 1886, sister Fannie died of consumption (likely Tuberculosis). No probate record was found. It seems that a once wealthy Bragg family was without cash or assets. Fannie’s youngest child Florence May Bragg was 17 and now an orphan – the Lansil brothers continued to provide for her (in 1900 she is listed in the census living with the Lansil’s but without an occupation).

On September 11, 1886 Walter purchased the home at 101 Maxwell Street (lots 8 & 10, sect. 3 – 9,880 square feet of land or about 2 ¼ acres) for $3,700, taking out a mortgage from S. Pickney Holbrook of $2,800.


On Thursday, December 23, 1886 a 47 year old Edwin (a lumber surveyor) married a much younger (24 years old and pregnant) Jane Catherine Roberts, the first marriage for both (Edwin was the only son of Asa and Betsey who married).  They were married by Rev. Edward Newman Packard. Jane had been in the U.S. a little over a year – she arrived sometime in 1885. On their wedding day, the temperature was between 30 and 40 degrees and it may have been snowing lightly.

boston weather

Rev. Packard was installed April 8, 1870 as a minister at Second Church, Dorchester (corner of Washington and Centre streets).  The church was Congregational Trinitarian. The church, pictured in 2013, is now a Church of the Nazarene:


Soon the children begin to arrive!

  • Five months later in May 1887  – Frances May “Fannie” Lansil, known to the younger generation as“Aunt Fan” was born.

March 11-14, 1888, the “Great Blizzard of 1888” blankets parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut with up to 50 inches of snow!

  • On 26 Jun 1888 – Edith Bernice Lansil was born.


Five months later the Lansil’s had a house fire which caused about $500 in damage [about $12,200 in 2014 dollars].


  • On 26 May 1890 Florence Paine Lansil arrived.


In 1890, Edwin is a boarder on Maxwell Street and a lumber surveyor at 27 Doane – the address of Walstein R. Chester & Company . Doane Street was the “lumber street” of Boston housing about a dozen lumber wholesale companies who provided the majority of the city’s lumber from this row of old buildings.  Edwin was with them for about 11 years from 1888 to 1899.


On 5 June 1890, Edwin’s father Asa Paine Lansil passed away.  He died of “old age” (77y, 7m, 19 d), at the Maxwell St. residence. They buried him with his wife Betsey at Mount Hope Cemetery.

He was described as Capt. Asa P. Lansil, one of the oldest citizens of Bangor who was well known and highly respected.  The cause of his death was softening of the brain.


asa obit.png

No probate records were found in Suffolk County. He probably died without assets.

Sadly Edwin and Jane’s 8 month old infant, Florence passed away on 20 February 1891 of convulsions and coma related to, tuberic meningitis. She was buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Dorchester, Maple Lot, Section 21, Lot 1483.


While he never seemed to gain as much fame as Walter, articles about Wilbur began to appear in local papers. A small sampling below:


In 1892, Edwin  joined the “secret society” of Masons – in East Boston (unclear why since he was living in Dorchester).


Walter & Wilbur joined The Lodge of Eleusis – Freemasonry – It was designed to bring together young college trained men in fraternal compact who had a sincere desire to put behind them the horrors of war and the misgivings incident to human conflict, that they might commune again as brothers, citizens, and good neighbors in an era of peace.

Their records say, “Two other Brethren artists were Wor. Walter Lansill (master 1892, 1893) and Wilbur Lansill. Wilbur died in office as senior warden. Walter lived to a ripe old age and was the sodality insructor who saw to it that young officers became proficient in their work. He was in active service up to a few weeks before his decease. His paintings on modern city life won the acclaim of the critics and some of them sold for large amounts”


In February 1893, the family dog, a collie owned by Asa B., was killed by intentional poisoning.  The case does not appear to have been solved. Many more Dorchester dogs died over the next several months from poison.


In 1894, two sons were recorded as born to Edwin and Jane.  This is likely an error – the births were 4 months apart. In the 1900 census, Jane reports having given birth to only 5 (not 6) and that 3 survived.

Frederick W Lansil was supposedly born, 29 Mar 1894 however there is no one of this name buried in the family lot.


Edwin Roberts Lansil, died of marasmus (progressive emaciation and general wasting due to enfeebled constitution rather than any specific or ascertainable cause) gastroenteritis, on 8 Aug 1894, age 10 days. Edwin was buried at Cedar Grove cemetery with sister Florence. No birth record was found. Perhaps the birth record was listed as Frederick in error and given a date of 29 Mar 1894 vs. 29 May 1894.


In 1896, Edwin purchased the Maxwell Street home from Walter at the price of $1.  He assumed a first mortgage of $2,800 and a second of $400.




Wilbur “Bibber” (who “kept a herd of cattle” to use as art subjects in the stable on Maxwell St.) died on 26 June 1897 of pulmonary phthisis (a progressive wasting away of the body, typically tuberculosis). He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor with his parents.  He left a will written 30 July 1896.


The Dressers are included in folks who attend the funeral – Mrs. Dresser sent flowers.


Wilbur left the remainder of his estate to his brother Walter.  In the event that Walter was not living, everything was to go to his 3 nieces: Florence May Bragg, Frances May Lansil and Edith Bernice Lansil (niece Doris Lansil was born after his death).  Walter was named as executor, Henry Howard Dresser was the named alternate if Walter does not survive him. There was no mention of Edwin, Asa B. or his Bragg nephews Edwin & Fredrick, all of whom were living.

The inventory list submitted after his death includes sketches, paintings, a camera, art supplies and a cow’s head!




A month later, Jane was admitted to the Boston Insane Hospital on July 26, 1897. She was discharged 22 February 1898.  Her length of stay is unknown. She was likely depressed and suicidal.

In May 1899, Edwin and Walter petitioned the probate court for guardianship of their brother Asa.  The petition says that by excessive drinking and idleness he spends, wastes and lessens his estate as to expose himself to want or suffering thereby exposing the city of Boston to paying his support.

Asa became Edwin’s “Ward” until 17 Nov 1902 when Edwin is discharged (or resigned, the paperwork isn’t clear). He charged Asa $25/month board from 1899-1902. Rental properties in the area (according to advertisements in the Boston Globe) in 1899-1902 were in the $6-$25 range. The higher amounts for a full 8-10 room house! It seems that Asa was over paying, but we don’t know the circumstances (i.e. was board inclusive of food?). Asa took very little in the form of cash (a few dollars here and there) but the city directories indicate that he was still working as a clerk during this period. Edward paid fees from the estate for Asa’s newspapers and laundry (glad to see Jane Catherine wasn’t required to do it for him!). It 1899 Edwin reimbursed himself $38.46 in legal fees 1899 and in 1902 took $42.65 for services as guardian.


On 29 Dec 1899, baby Doris Lansil arrived.



In 1900, Edwin, Jane, their three surviving children (Francis 13, Edith 11, & Doris 5 months), niece Florence Bragg and brothers Asa (no occupation listed) & Walter (artist) are living on 101 Maxwell Street, Dorchester.  A 60 year old Edwin is listed as a lumber surveyor who has not worked in the past 12 months.  He owns the home which is still mortgaged.


By late 1900 Edwin had a job at A.M Stenson & Co., 44 Kilby, as a lumber surveyor.


In 1902, Walter moved to Hotel Pelham (an apartment house) and within the year, Asa B. joined him.


Their move may have been related to Edwin’s diagnosis as “insane” in 1902 (his 1904 death certificate indicates that he was insane for 2 years preceding death). On 17 Nov 1902, Edwin resigned as Asa B.’s guardian. No reason was given.


A year later, Edwin was admitted to the Boston Insane Hospital on 20 Nov 1903.

Application for the Commitment for the Insane:
20 November 1903

White male, age 65, born Bangor, ME, occupation: surveyor, married.

He had no previous attacks; the present attack started one year ago, the attack was gradual and he has not previously been in an asylum.  His bodily condition is poor, likely due to an injury related to a fall in 1901.  The patient is “cleanly in dress and personal habits”.  

He is demented, restless, incoherent and destructive.  He had an insane father [wow! so Asa Paine Lansil was also insane at some point!].  His liquor, tobacco and opium habits are “good”.

Nearest relative: Wife, Jane C., 101 Maxwell St., Dorchester

Medical Certificate of Insanity: 
20 November 1903

He said: I [unable to read] as got into. He talked very incoherently.

he said

The patient: Ate flour with a knife – kept walking about handling things. He was not properly dressed.

 His appearance and manner was: demented, incoherent, destructive.

Other facts: He has been failing mentally for some time. He is very restless, confused and at times violent and destructive [did he hurt his wife and/or children?].

Men were housed on Pierce Farm.


Interior of the infirmary ward in the Department for Men at the Boston Insane Hospital. Patients are seated around the room. Photograph taken a few years prior to Edwin’s arrival in 1900




Soon after Asa’s death and placement of Edwin in the insane asylum, advertisements appeared – “rooms for rent”, perhaps run by Jane Catherine who was then alone in the home with her children and likely needed some form of income.


On 11 July 1904, 65 year old Edwin died.  The actual cause of death was erysipelas (a bacterial skin infection).He was buried at Cedar Grove, Dorchester, Maple Lot, Section 21, Lot 1483, Row H. No probate records exist in Suffolk County, indicating that he also died without assets.


The lot was purchased 21 Feb 1891, there is only one marker, engraved with “Florence P. Lansil, age 9 months”, she was buried 22 Feb  – this coupled with lack of probate indicates Edwin may not have had much – the family may not have been able to afford a grave marker. According to cemetery records, a 10 day old Edwin R Lansil and 68 year old Jane Catherine Lansil are also buried in the lot.


Sadly, we know nothing of Edwin’s personality, we have tiny glimpses of what his life may have been like. Was he a charmer? How did he come to marry a woman young enough to be his child? I would guess things weren’t easy – close family members were alcoholics, we don’t know if Edwin drank (his asylum admittance papers state that he did not have an alcohol or drug issue), how he treated his wife and children and dealt with the death of his older brother Enoch, two babies and poisoning of the dog. How did the loss of a business and frequent unemployment affected him? The end of his life came while institutionalized. For what reason? We may never know his hardships and what impact he had on our generation.

Alcoholism in the Family

There is alcoholism and mental illness in every branch of my tree.  Betsey Turner (Grout) Lansil’s death certificate, lists her cause of death, as “Dropsy caused by Scirrhus of Liver”.  Although cirrhosis has a number of causes, I immediately pictured  a mean, old, crotchety, drunk.

Betsey Turner (Grout) Lansil, daughter of Amos Grout and Rachael Couillard is my 3rd g-grandmother.


She was born 3 June 1813 in Frankfort, Maine.


On 2 November 1834 she married Asa Paine Lansil, son of Charles V. Lansil/Lansell and Ruth Paine, in Frankfort or Bucksport, Maine.

They had six known children:
– Enoch Howard Lansil (b. 1836, and died young)
– Edwin Lansil (b. 1839 – my 2nd g-grandfather)
– Frances “Fannie” Ellen Lansil (b. 1841)
– Walter “Waddie” Franklin Lansil (b. 1846, a famous marine artist –
– Asa Brainard Lansil (b. 1849)
– Wilbur “Bibber” Henry Lansil (b. 1855, a famous cattle painter)

Enoch, Edwin and Frances were baptized at the Hammond Street Church in Bangor.

From 1843 to 1848, the Lansil family was living on 101 Hammond, a brick tenement in the Bangor neighborhood of Barkerville.  Asa’s brother Charles (wife Louisa and baby) lived at the same address.



In 1850, Betsey and Asa were enumerated  in Bangor with Edwin, Francis E., Walter and Asa B.  Asa was a Cooper with real estate valued at $1,000 . In 1851 the family was on Main St. (likely 101 Hammond was on the corner of Hammond and Main); Asa worked as a Cooper on 61 Broad St., perhaps with his brothers James & Ephraim.

Asa City

In 1854, Asa was in favor of electing a mayor who would vigorously enforced the Maine Law of Suppression of Intemperance (the state of Maine, under the efforts of the merchant Neal Dow, passed a prohibitory statute in 1851 outlawing the manufacture and sale of intoxicants).


Asa’s sister, Mary (Lansil) Dudley died in 1856; and one of her children, Sarah Elizabeth Dudley, joined the family temporarily. Enumerated with the family in 1860, as a domestic servant, was Melissa Paul, age 16 (perhaps a boarder or relative as her family lived next door to Asa’s brother Thomas Lansil in 1850). Edwin, Fannie, Walter, Asa B. and Wilbur were all living at home.

By 1860, Asa’s assets had risen to $3,500 and Edwin was his dad’s only employee. The father and son team produced barrels, buckets, water casks and cisterns. Asa had $200 invested in the business, and annually produced products valued at $1,000. In 1857, they sold to the town a cistern for $25, and horse buckets for $9. In 1861, for $23, they sold a cistern for use at the city stable . They do not appear in the Maine IRS tax lists from1862-6 (only Asa’s brothers Charles V. & George made the list), indicating (perhaps) that neither Edwin or Asa profited much in these years.

Asa City directories more

Asa City directories &

In 1870 only Betsey, Asa, Walter, Asa B. & Wilbur resided at the 101 Hammond St. home. Asa’s net worth had risen to $5,500. Walter had become his dad’s only employee, in a business now netting $1,200 annually.


By the early 1870’s Betsey’s children Edwin and Frances “Fannie” had relocated to Boston. Edwin was not found in the 1870 census but in 1871 he is listed in the Bangor City Directory as living in East Boston. Their brother, Asa B. soon followed.

In 1863 Fannie had married a wealthy lumberman, Carleton Sylvanus Bragg, Jr.  In 1870 the 31 year old’s net worth was $35,000, [about $625,000 in 2014 buying power]. Bragg’s dad Carleton, Sr., was worth $50,000 that same year [about $893,000 in 2014 buying power]. In 1870/1 Betsy’s son Edwin, son-in-law Bragg and a Henry Jones started a lumber business under the name “Jones, Bragg & Lansil” in East Boston. They purchased property for $2,146.37; four parcels totaling 5,625 feet on Maverick and Lamson.

Carlton’s obituary in the Bangor Daily Whig And Courier, Friday, November 05, 1880 /Page-3 summarizes their move:

bragg obit

In 1871, the town assessed a $700 tax on the Bangor edifice which housed Asa’s business. The road had been widened, thus increasing the value of the property. Perhaps the rent was raised which may have hastened Asa and Betsey’s decision to relocate.

bragg tax

Asa P. soon put the family horse, sleigh & robes and the house on the market in preparation for the family’s move to Boston.

bragg sale

Asa, Betsey, Walter and Wilbur joined Edwin, Asa B. , Frances and Carleton in East Boston about 1872/3. They initially boarded at 119 Webster (Fannie & Carleton then moved to 39 White, East Boston). Soon Asa Sr. and Edwin purchased a home together for $5,600 on Trenton, at the corner of Putnam (lot 169, sec 3)

Lansil home

Massachusetts Land Deeds – book 1137, pg 179-180, 9 Dec 1872


By 1876 the Braggs joined the family on Trenton.


159 Trenton Street as it looks in 2013 (the big brown one on the right corner)


Directly across the street is a nice park, it likely looked different, but it was there when the Lansil’s were there (and yes, that is my very patient husband sitting near the fountain).

photo (5)

Betsey, Asa, her 5 living children, her son-in law Carleton and teenage grandchildren Edwin, Fred and Florence Bragg plus a”domestic”, were enumerated in the 1880 East Boston census still residing on 159 Trenton:

Sadly, later in 1880, Betsey’s son-in-law, Fannie’s husband, Carleton passed away suddenly on 1 Nov 1880 after being sick for just two days. The cause was apoplexy (sudden loss of consciousness, sensation, and voluntary motion) .

About four months later, on 3 March 1881, Betsey, died of “dropsy caused by scirrhus of the liver”.  At the time of her death she was still living at 159 Trenton Street and was 67 years and 9 months. She was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, State Street, Bangor, Maine; Lot 407CG, which has no grave marker.

betsey death

That’s it….  Nothing more. Impersonal records offering residences, children’s names and husband’s occupation. Not even an obituary found in the local Boston or East Boston papers.

BUT THEN…. I visited Bangor, Maine.  The Hammond Street Church records were preserved.  I let them know in advance I was coming. The folks there and at the Bangor Library (who hold some of the church books in their basement) were wonderful!  I had an amazing visit!

hammond church

They had record of Asa and Betsey joining the church in 1842:

joined church

Betsey’s signature when she joined the church:


Baptism and Sunday School records for her children, evidence that Asa and son Edwin were Sunday School teachers, a notice that her son Enoch had died at the age of 6, her husband’s Asa’s death notice…..

And Betsey’s death record:

Died in East Boston March 3, 1881. Mrs. Betsey (Grout) Lansil, aged 68.

Mrs. L. was born in Frankfort, June 3, 1813 [YAY! Her birthday!!] the daughter of Rachael and Amos (Couillard) Grout [YAY! evidence of her parents names]

Married Asa P. Lansil at Frankfort by Archibald Jones, November 2, 1834  [YAY! a marriage date! – Asa’s death notice gives the same date but specifies that they married in Bucksport, Maine].

She was received to membership of this church in profession of faith, with her husband and seventeen others Sep. 4, 1842. Seven of these have since died. The following letter to the one who should officiate at her funeral in Bangor by Rev. S. P. Fay, her former Pastor, expresses well her character.

It was read by Professor Paine at the funeral.  [? perhaps Levi Leonard Paine]

Betsey's death

And there, in the church books – the letter from Betsey’s former pastor  – A eulogy.  Simple but powerful.  She becomes a real person. My image was all wrong, she was a wonderful wife, mother and friend.

It reads:

Service in Bangor at the house of Edward P Lansil, a brother of Asa P. Sabath ____, March 4 [?], 1881

Pardon me for saying a word to you of the deceased, whose funeral you will be asked to attend. I should have been glad to have gone down and spoken of her whom I knew so well to the dear friends of Hammond St. church who will be at her funeral.  I should have been glad from my quite intimate acquaintance with her for now nearly fifteen years to have borne testimony touching her love to her family, – pure, tender and wise as it was her faithfulness to her husband and her fidelity to her faith in Christ.

Her sickness was long, and very painful, but she never complained in it all. She never felt that God was dealing hardly with her.  Death had lost its sting to her.  Among her last utterances, she  repeated the 23d Psalm and then said, – “I should love to remain with you all, but I am not afraid to go”, and again, – “it is better I should go.”

She was cheerful in sickness, hopeful in adversity and leaned upon the promises of God with childlike affection. Such was her faith in Christ, that she could look death in the face  without fear.

May god give right words of comfort and instruction to speak to the husband and children that  loved her with pure and sincere affection.

I shall remember her as one of the purest and most faithful of the many dear souls I have buried of the Hammond Street Church.

___ in Christ, signed S. P. Fay

Mr. Fay conducted a service at East Boston,  churchs [?] before the removal of the remains to Bangor.

Bearers at the funeral in Bangor. Deacs Dusen [?] & Webster, S. F. Jones and John P. Davis. 


About Rev. S. P. Fay:

It appears that Fay was her former pastor at the Hammond Street Church, he was enumerated in Bangor in 1880, but relocated to a church in Dorchester, Massachusetts later in 1880. This explains how he was able to be at her bedside and hold a funeral service for Betsey in East Boston and why he would write a letter back to his former parish speaking of the many he buried there.

bangor pastor

Fay burial

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