Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ebenezer Alden & Early Settlement in Union

I was in the town of Union over the weekend and passed the town common and many old homes in the village area near it. This reminded me of reading the book, Come Spring (Ben Ames Williams, 1940), a fictional account of the Robbins family and early settlement of the town. If you haven't read this book, give it a try. It was painstakingly researched for historical accuracy and gives the reader a feel for what it might have been like to arrive in the Maine woods in the late 1700s. I particularly remember reading about the men spending months clearing land, day after day cutting trees with hand-saws. What did those old, relatively undisturbed woods look like? I was also struck by the realization that the primary means of travel was by water rather than land - boats on the rivers in warm weather, and sleighs across the ice in winter. The Union historical society offers a printed, self-guided "Come Spring" tour and you can visit some of the locations from the book, such as the old homesteads and the cemetery.

The Old Townhouse, Union, Maine
(Photo by author)
The first white settlers to the area were three men of Scottish origins who arrived in 1772 and called their logging camp "Sterling." The town officially formed in 1786 with the name of Union.

Founding families include: Adams, Bowen, Butler, Cummings, Grinnel, Hawes, Holmes, Hills, Mero, Partridge, Robbins, Ware, and Wheaton. Union boasts the oldest public common in the state; records indicate the Common was established by 1790. Many old homes have been preserved, including the Robbins house, the Old Townhouse (built in 1840 as the town meetinghouse in the New England tradition, and now owned by the historical society), and the Ebenezer Alden house.

The Alden house stands tall and imposing on a hill above the Common, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a beautiful house and has been carefully restored. I've seen it many times and was curious to learn more about its original inhabitant.

Ebenezer Alden House, Union, Maine (Photo: Union Historical Society)

Ebenezer Alden


Ebenezer Alden was from Massachusetts, born 20 September 1774 in Middleborough to Job and Lucy Alden.(1) He came to Maine as a young man to work as a carpenter during the construction of the Montpelier mansion in Thomaston. He decided to settle in Union and must have been quite enterprising, as he completed his house there by 1798 (just 24 years old), and operated the first general store in the town.(2) In 1799, he returned to Massachusetts to marry Patience Gilmore,(3) and the couple traveled to the home in Union. They had nine sons and three daughters: Horatio, Louisa, Silas, Selina, Lyman, Melina, Augustus, Ebenezer, James, Edward, Henry, and George.(4)

I did a quick search of online census records (Ancestry.com) and found Ebenezer's household in Union from 1810-1860: Ebenezer Alden is listed on the 1810 and 1830 censuses for Union with 10 household members (Ebenezer, Patience, and 8 children), 1840 with 6 household members, and then more detailed family listings in 1850 and 1860.(5)

In 1850, Ebenezer, age 75, and his wife Patience, age 68, had property valued at $15,000, a very large sum at that time. They were farming, and two of their grown sons lived in the home - Augustus (age 34, farmer) with his wife Margaret and two young children, and Edward (age 28, physician).(6)

By 1860, Ebenezer, age 84, was living in the home with his son Augustus and his family. Patience had died prior to 1860.(7) Ebenezer died two years later on August 10, 1862.

The home remained in the Alden family for several generations. Ebenezer's children moved to Camden, Thomaston, and Bangor, in addition to those who remained in Union.

Resources and Further Reading:


Union History:
Free Online Books:
The Alden House:
The Alden Family:

Sources:


  1. "Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988", database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), entry for Ebenezer Alden, 20 Sep 1774, Middleborough; citing "Massachusetts Vital and Town Records, Holbrook Research Institute, Provo, UT."
  2. "Preserving the Ebenezer Alden House in Historic Maine," Patricia Poore, Old House Online, Fall/Winter 2011 article.
  3. "Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), entry for Ebenezer Alden - Patience Gillemore, 24 February 1799, Middleborough; citing "Massachusetts Vital and Town Records, Holbrook Research Institute, Provo, UT."
  4. Alden Pedigree, Union Historical Society.
  5. 1810 U.S. census, Lincoln County, Maine, population schedule, Union, page 1, Ebenezer Alden; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), citing National Archives microfilm publication M252, Roll 12. 1830 U.S. Census, Lincoln County, Maine, population schedule, Union, page 244, line 16, Ebenezer Alden; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), citing National Archives microfilm publication M19, Roll 49. 1840 U.S. Census, Lincoln County, Maine, population schedule, Union, page 81, line 6, Ebenezer Alden; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), citing National Archives microfilm publication M704, Roll 144.
  6. 1850 U.S. Census, Lincoln County, Maine, population schedule, Union, page 251A, dwelling 74, family 82, Ebenr Alden; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), citing National Archives microfilm publication M432, Roll 259.
  7. 1850 U.S. Census, Knox County, Maine, population schedule, Union, page 231, dwelling 325, family 313, Ebenezar Alden; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 January 2013), citing National Archives microfilm publication M653, Roll 443.

5 comments:

  1. Kelly, welcome to the Geneablogger community! We have a New England Geneablogger bash every once in a while, and all plan to meet up at NERGC in April (I hope you'll be there?) Please join our group on Facebook for discussions and events. I'll put a link to your blog up at the FB page.

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    1. Thanks, Heather! Glad to know about the NE Geneablogger group. I'd love to go to NERGC but I am not sure at this point whether it will work out or not.

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  2. Enjoyed your post about Union very much, and I admire the format you use, with sources and additional reading. Looking forward to more!

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    1. Thank you, Pam! I appreciate the feedback.

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  3. Heather, The current owners of the Ebenezer Alden House are friends of ours. The house is up for sale and we've been looking at it. In doing some research, I came across this blog page. Boy was I surprised to see that you were the author! I don't know if you've been in the house or toured the expansive property and outbuildings. It's absolutely an amazing place with an incredible amount of it's original life preserved. Besides all the obvious features of the house and buildings, there are other interesting historic features. One in particular is the moveable fence, consisting of a number of large boulders driven through by iron rods. Apparently oxen dragged the stones to various location to create a fence. I'm not sure if the boulders were set apart with something tied to the iron rods, creating a fence, or if the boulders were dragged and set end to end with the rods creating the enclosure. Do you know anything about this type of historic fencing?

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