I had the opportunity to be a Genealogy “brick wall buster” at the MGS Genealogy Fair last July. What a great experience. They say, “In teaching others we teach ourselves.[i]” Likewise, helping others with their “brick walls” is an amazing process wherein the helper learns. One of my querists wanted to know, “How to find…
Ingraham and Mary Rier. They were laid to rest in the Lubec Cemetery, not far from Grammy Rier’s home overlooking Johnson Bay. My paternal grandparents were Frank and Elizabeth Keegan Rier. Grandfather Frank’s parents were Burpee and Emma Batron Rier. My Great Great Grandparents, Ingraham and Mary Rier, had four children born between 1860 and 1868. Alice, Burpee, Bertha E, and Ida May. Ingraham and Mary were born in Nova Scotia as were their children. They immigrated to Lubec, Maine between 1868 (the date their last child Ida May was born) and 1876, the year Alice died in Lubec. Ida May died there in 1883.
When I arrived at the Lubec Cemetery on a sunny day last week, I was not sure where the gravesite was located. I had memories of Dad driving by the cemetery when I was young, pointing to a tall grayish white obelisk-like stone beside a tree.
“That’s where my great grandfather Ingraham Rier is buried,” he would say. “He was the first Rier to come to Lubec.” In my memory, Dad never said where Ingraham came from and I don’t think he knew. It was a mystery.
I searched the cemetery in quadrants beginning at the far side toward downtown Lubec and toward the front, closest to Rte 189. Many gravestones were hard to read, if at all, but I noticed that there were large family plots. If I could read a few of the stones in a plot and see the family surname, I moved on. About one third of the way across the front of the cemetery, I was almost ready to give up and cover the rest on other days.
As I looked toward a towering tree beside the road, I wondered if my memory could possibly be accurate. Something or someone urged me on.
Then. There it was. The gravestone that Dad pointed out so often in bygone years, stood before me.
“I found it!” I shouted in the wind. I wondered if Dad heard me. I hoped so.
Ingraham E Rier
1840 – 1904
His wife, Mary
1842 – 1915
1862 – 1952
On the side of the stone closest to the tree, the names of their two daughters who died as teenagers were engraved.
May 14, 1876
13 yrs 2 mos
Oct. 26, 1883
15 yrs 8 mos
Dau’s of I.E. and M. Rier
There is an inscription underneath that I cannot read. I will need to come back another day in different light.
There is a discrepancy in the age at death of Alice A. from the Maine death record which listed her year of birth as 1860. I can only guess that this was inaccurate since she was born in Nova Scotia and suspect that her parents knew exactly how old she was when she died, 13 yrs 2 months, not 16. The birth year for Bertha E on the stone (1862) doesn’t match her estimated year of birth from the 1880 census (1865) which recorded her age as 15. It is time to search vital records in Nova Scotia.
My great grandfather Burpee Rier is not here. Perhaps he is buried with his wife Emma Batron. It will take more research to find his grave. There is always more to discover!
It had been a good day. Earlier, I had visited the Chapel Hill cemetery in nearby Trescott and located the gravestones of my great and GG grandfathers Keegan, Grammy Rier’s father and grandfather.
James Keegan Sr (1812 – 1879) and his son James H Keegan Jr. (1847 – 1927) were laid to rest in Chapel Hill cemetery in Trescott, ME. James Sr. immigrated to Trescott from Ireland in 1836. I had seen their gravestones on the findagrave.com website but I wanted to go there myself. I had hit a roadblock in tracing James Sr in Ireland. My cousin Teresa had visited Ireland and requested information about him from the Meath Heritage & Genealogy Centre in Trim, Ireland, County Meath. The Centre found one listing for a James Keegan born March 27th, 1812 to Pat Keegan and Elizabeth Keating. But the birth date for this James did not match the birth date on his gravestone (October 6, 1812). I noted that County Meath was misspelled on his gravestone as Meade, perhaps the date of birth was not accurate either. The Centre’s search covered 1812 +/- 5 years and found two other James Keegans:
(1) 8th November 1814 – James born to John Keegan and Elizabeth Camble (Oldcastle).
(2) 25th July 1816 – James born to Thadeus Keegan and Mary Newman (Kildalkey).
With no other information to go on, such as James’ parents names etc in Ireland, the Centre wrote that there was no way to know which James Keegan was our ancestor. It occurred to me that I did not know the name of James’ wife and emigrating from Ireland in 1836 at the age of 24, he may have been married in Ireland. If I visited his gravesite, perhaps I could find his wife and her name there too.
I strolled around Chapel Hill Cemetery looking for his gravestone. It is a small and beautiful cemetery nestled against the woods, now bright with the reds, yellows, golds and greens of Fall.
Among a carpet of red cranberries and green moss were stones that marked the graves of many Irish/Scottish immigrants and their descendants: Sullivan, Murray, Kelley, McCarty, McQuaige, McCurdy.
I found James Keegan Sr.’s gravestone in the front corner close to the corner of Rte. 189 and Chapel Hill (Timber Cover) Road. I was so pleased to find it, followed by disappointment that there was no other stone close by, nor his wife noted on his gravestone.
Beside this gravestone was that of his son James Jr. There were no other Keegan gravestones or markers. Engraved on the front of this stone was his date of birth , no date of death, his wife Margaret (1857 – 1897). Their daughter Winnifred, born in 1887 and died in 1918 (the year of the great flu pandemic) at the age of 31, was buried with her parents.
Then I looked at the back of James Jr.’s stone. Names were engraved there, difficult to see under the lichen and moss, but I knelt and read:
James 1812 1879
Elizabeth 1809 1889
William 1836 1880
Anne 1841 1897
The birth date on the back of the stone of James Sr. looks like 1814 but closer inspection reveals 1812. Elizabeth is likely James Jr.’s mother, William and Anne, his brother and sister. James Jr. had a brother named Thomas who lived in Lubec with his family in 1910. He must be buried elsewhere. I don’t know the names of the rest of the family.
The photo of the back of the stone is not very clear but I will try another day in different sunlight.
Back home on the computer, I began to search for Maine vital records about James Keegan Sr. and his wife Elizabeth. I hadn’t found much about him before, except a photo of his gravestone and the record of his US naturalization in 1843.
An entire page of records popped up on the computer screen.
The 1840 census didn’t hold much information, just the name of heads of households, the number of individuals in the house and their age range. His name is spelled James Kegan, male between 20 and 30 years of age. One female between 20 and 30. One male child and one female child under the age of five. If I am reading this census correctly, the household consists of James Sr. (about 28 years old), his wife Elizabeth about the same age, a son and a daughter under the age of five.
The 1850 census yielded more information. Since arriving in Trescott in 1836, James Sr. and Elizabeth had seven children.
James Kegan, age 41, a farmer, value of real estate 300″ (?), place of birth, Ireland.
Elizabeth Kegan, age 40, place of birth, Ireland.
William, age 12, born in Maine and attended school in the last year.
Mary, age 10, born in Maine and attended school in the last year.
Ann, age 9, born in Maine and attended school in the last year.
John, age 8 and attended school in the last year.
Eliza, age 6.
James, age 3 (my great grandfather).
Catherine, age 1.
1860 Census. The spelling of Kegan is now Keegan. Mary, about 20 years of age that year, is no longer in the household and their last son Thomas was age 9.
James Keegan, age 48, born in Ireland.
Elizabeth Keegan, age 48, Ireland.
William Keegan, age 22, born in Maine.
Anne Keegan, age 18, Maine.
Elizabeth Keegan, age 18, Maine. (Eliza in 1840 census).
John Keegan, age 16, Maine.
James Keegan, age 13, Maine.
Catherine Keegan, age 11, Maine.
Thomas Keegan, age 9, Maine.
It is apparent that ages do not exactly coincide between each census.
One year after James Sr. died in 1879, there were four that lived in the Keegan household according to the 1880 Trescott census.
Elizabeth, age 74, mother, widowed, keeping house, born in Ireland. father and mother born in Ireland.
James, age 32, son, single, farmer, born in Maine, father and mother born in Ireland (my great grandfather).
Thomas, age 29, son, married, farmer, born in Maine, father and mother born in Ireland.
Catherine, age 28, daughter-in-law, married, housekeeper, born in Maine, father and mother born in Ireland.
The search yielded two more documents. The records of death for Annie and Eliza Keegan, daughters of James (Sr) and Elizabeth Keegan.
Annie died in Machias on September 15, 1897 at 55 years of age. Place of birth: Trescott. Widowed. Occupation: Housework. Cause of death: Chronic spinal meningitis. Her mother’s maiden name is written as: Elizabeth Morran.
Eliza (Keegan) May died in Lubec in 1920 at 76 years of age. She was a resident of Lubec for 17 years, previous residence Trescott. Date of birth: March 22, 1844 in Trescott. Occupation: Housewife. Maiden name of her mother: Elizabeth Morris. Eliza is the deceased was the wife of James May. Cause of death: Valvular Endocarditis. Duration: Indefinite. Contributing cause: Lobar Pneumonia. Duration: One week.
What discoveries! I found the names of the children of my great great grandfather James Keegan Sr. At last, I know my great great grandmother’s name: Elizabeth. Her surname is either Morris or Morran (Moran?). They were surely married in Ireland as they came to Trescott in 1836 and their first child William was born the same year in Maine.
That should be enough information to search Irish records and go back further in time.
What is particularly precious is that I can begin to see them, envision their lives that began in Ireland and came so far to live off the land and settle in Trescott and Lubec.
My ancestors peek through the mist of time.
United States Census, Trescott, ME, 1840.
“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6VC-TSD : 12 April 2016), James Kegan in household of James Kegan, Trescott, Washington, Maine, United States; citing family 56, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
“United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDHL-7P5 : 26 July 2017), James Keegan in entry for James Keegan, 1860.
United States Census, Trescott, ME, 1880.
My Dad, James “Gene” Rier, served in the US Army Air Corp from March 7, 1942 until December 30, 1945. I was surprised to find this letter among his papers along with other documents. It is a Statement of Interest in Consideration for Commission in the Regular Army. October 22, 1945. I had no idea that he submitted this letter of interest for commission in the US Army Air Corp after the war. Perhaps it was a backup plan in the case he did not find a civilian job.
Note: Pertinent parts of this letter are transcribed below for easy reading.
By October 29, 1945, one week after this letter of interest, Captain James E Rier, separated from the US Army Air Corp with commendation.
Dad found a job at the mill in Calais where he worked for a year and saved the money to build a home and business in Machias. By January 4th, 1946, Dad, Mom and my brother Jimmy were living in Calais.
What is interesting about Dad’s Statement of Interest for Commission in the Army is the details it contains about Dad’s education, training, and his early work history. I thought I knew about all about it but I did not. He wrote:
I have attended the following schools or colleges for the indicated number of years and hold the indicated degrees:
a. New England Aircraft School – Airplane Mechanics Course, six months.
b. Hemphill Diesel School, Boston Mass, six months.
c. Army Pilot Training, seven months.
d. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft School – Engine Specialist Course, two months.
My professional or business experience is as follows:
a. Aircraft Maintenance Officer – Three years
b. Six years experience as auto mechanic and foreman
c. Two years experience as topographer and surveyor
My military record is as follows:
a. Commissioned at Brooks Field, Texas, 7 March 1942, per paragraph 14 GO 54.
b. Date of entry on active duty 7 March 1942
c. Active duty, commissioned service, three years and eight months
d. Active duty, enlisted service, one year five months
Former immediate commanding officers from whom an officer evaluation report may be obtained:
a. Colonel Benjamin J. Webster, present address, Stewart Field, Newburgh, NY, served under from 25 June 1945 to date.
b. Colonel Joe W. Kelly, last known address, AAF Training Command, Fort Worth, Texas, served under from 25 January 1945 to 25 June 1945.
c. Colonel George F. Schlatter, last known address, Stewart Field, Newburgh, NY, served under from 3 June 1943 to 25 January 1945.
Permanent home mailing address: Lubec, Maine.
Dad must have been receiving his mail at his mother’s home in Lubec.
Dad’s Separation Qualification Record adds more details of his military career.
Military Occupational Assignments
5 months 2 Lt, Pilot, Two Engined (1051)
4 months 2nd Lt, Pilot, Single Engine (1054)
35 months Capt, Flight Test Maintenance Officer (4821)
Flight Test Maintenance Officer. Supervised the inspection, maintenance and repair of single and two engine training aircraft in the production line maintenance section. Supervised the preparation of reports, forms and correspondence necessary in the administration of the section. Supervised the changing of aircraft engines. Performed all necessary test flights to check safety of aircraft. Totaled 1215 flying hours as First Pilot.
Note: Dad was awarded the Legion of Merit for his accomplishments as a Flight Test Maintenance Officer.
On the second page, Dad lists employment:
Auto mechanic at Diamond Point Garage, Lubec Maine from 1935 to 1937. (This must be his father, Frank Rier’s garage. I did not know the name).
Topographer – 35.725 – for US Engineering Department, Boston, Mass from 1934 to 1935. On survey party, making maps of flooded area, also map of area to be flooded by future dam built.
Dad must have done the surveyor work right after he graduated from Lubec High School in 1934, likely living with his Aunt Mary in Leominster, MA. He truly was a jack of all trades!
I recently looked again at the tintype photographs, seeing more information about dating them at phototree.com. The photo above is of J. Frank Robinson, Boston Mass. and dated October 31st, 1866. The studio was Richardson’s Ferrotype, Ambrotype and Photograph Rooms, 120 Hanover Street, Boston.
Beside this photo in the album is another of a man taken at the same studio, but there is no name on the back.
In this old, old photo album of my ancestors, there are more tintype photographs of the same era, a woman in braids in Sioux City, Iowa and two children with no studio stamp on the back. The embossed window frames on the children’s photographs indicate that they are circa 1869s, early 1870s.
The woman appears to be of native American heritage. I do not know who she is, whether she an ancestor, friend or relative, nor do I know the identity of the children. I do know that my ancestors in the Getchell/Means/Berry families migrated from Maine to Boston, California and many other states across the country.
Perhaps it is time for me to have my DNA analyzed for an ethnicity profile?
a military award of the United States Armed Forces that is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.
Today I found the citation letter sent to him and a badly damaged newspaper article reporting his Legion of Merit award.
“James E. Rier of Machias who was awarded the Legion of Merit at the request of Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, Army Air Chief for ‘outstanding accomplishment which contributed to flying safety.’ Rier, a former captain in the Air Force, earned the citation while serving…”
Pratt & Whitney’s first engine R-1340 was called the Wasp. It was completed on Christmas Eve 1925. Soon, it dominated Navy and Army Air Force fighter planes. According to the Pratt Whitney website, “in the 1930s, it made its mark on early commercial aviation. Charles Lindbergh shattered the transcontinental speed record in 1930 with his Wasp-powered Lockheed Sirius. Jimmy Doolittle relied on his Wasp to take his Gee Bee aircraft to new speeds. And, Amelia Earhart made history with her Wasp-powered Lockheed Electra 10E.” The R-1340 engine was produced until 1960 with over 35,000 engines sold.
When I was growing up, once in awhile, Dad would take the medal out of the old secretary, open the velvet-lined case, and tell the story. During WWII, airplane engines were failing due to a design flaw resulting in downed planes and death of pilots. At the time, Dad was serving as Assistant Aircraft Engineering Officer at West Point, Stewart Field Air Force Base, in Newburgh, NY. He recognized the engine flaw and figured out the mathematical formulas to fix the design. A certain part of the engine was at an improper angle that resulted in engine failure in some planes under certain flying conditions. He said it was all about the math and inventing the right formulas to correct it.
There was another story Dad told about fixing the engine design. It happened before he was awarded the Legion of Merit. An Army General visited Stewart Field and held a meeting to determine who was responsible for fixing the engines. One of Dad’s superior officers tried to take credit for it. Dad found out in the meeting. He said it was the closest he ever came to throwing a man out a second floor window, but restrained himself. (Now Dad could have a temper at times but I never saw him violent with anyone, little less ignore military protocols, so this was a surprise to his young daughter.) When Dad voiced his strong objection as the man attempted to take credit, the General questioned this man and asked him to explain the formulas. He could not. He didn’t know anything about it. The General then asked Dad the same questions. Dad had memorized the formulas and explained how the change in design had fixed the problem.
I can find no information online about a problem with Pratt and Whitney engines in World War II planes but expect that information was not made public.
I’m horribly glad that Dad decided not to throw that guy out through the window. And, I’m gratefully proud of him for serving his country, for making Pratt and Whitney engines safer, proud of the man who grew up in Lubec, graduated from High School there in 1934, then built a successful business nearby in Machias, Maine.
This photo of a three star General (far left), Dad (third from left), and a man on the right, who may be an engineer from Pratt and Whitney, inspecting a plane at West Point.
My mother, Louise (Johnson) Rier, was a member. I joined in 2012. Last year, my daughter, Monica Snowdeal Stone, became a member. It’s important to pass down our history for generations to come. Our qualifying ancestor to join the DAR was Joseph Getchell Jr.
The DAR is a women’s service organization dedicated to promoting historic preservation, education, patriotism and honoring the patriots of the Revolutionary War. DAR members come from a variety of backgrounds and interests, but all share a common bond of having an ancestor who helped contribute to securing the independence of the United States of America. Any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible to join.
The Hannah Weston Chapter of the DAR is located in Machias, Maine. Established in a rural Downeast community, this chapter has over 90 members, second in size only to the chapter in the largest city of the state, Portland. Hannah Watts Weston was a remarkable 17-year old heroine of the first battle of the American Revolution who walked through the woods for 16 miles carrying 40 pounds of household pewter to be melted down for ammunition.
Anyone who grew up in Machias knows that their home town was the site of the first naval battle of the American Revolution that took place June 11 and 12th, 1775.
Joseph Getchell Sr. and his wife immigrated to the British colony of Massachusetts from Hull, England and settled in Scarboro in 1749 (then a part of MA, later the state of Maine). They had three children: Benjamin, Mary, and Joseph Jr, born in April 1757. Joseph Sr. and his family came to Machias in 1869 or 70. In 1776, Joseph Getchell Jr. married Sally Berry. They had eleven children: Westbrook, Abagail, Betsey, John, Marshall, Benjamin, Mary, Simeon, Jane, G. Washington, and George Stillman.
Joseph Jr.’s son John had two children: Marshfield and Thomas. Marshfield married Martha Jane Holmes. They had seven children, their youngest was my great grandmother Nellie Getchell Means.
Joseph Getchell Jr. fought the British in the rebellion for independence of the American colonies to prevent the British from taking their primary resources: timber for ships and their hard-earned money, taxation without representation. Once British demands were made, the residents of Downeast Maine not only refused to comply by providing timber or paying their taxes, they erected a “liberty pole” in the town square. And then, they set out to seize British ships that entered their harbor.
A group of townsmen met to decide on their plan of action. Once agreed upon at the Rubicon, the brook they jumped across to seal their pact, these men collectively captured the British ship Margaretta and hid her upriver. Among the first men who jumped on board the Margaretta in the assault was my ancestor, 18 year old Joseph Getchell Jr. The captured British ship captain died. His blood remains in the Burnham Tavern where they took him after their assault. The Burnham Tavern is now a museum under the care of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a reminder to future generations never to yield to tyranny.
The Burnham Tavern, beautifully preserved, as it is today.
This summer, the Tavern will be open from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday, beginning on Tuesday, July 5th and continuing through Friday, September 2nd. In addition, it may be possible to arrange visits at other times if a docent is available. Please call 207-733-4577 or e-mail <email@example.com> for further information.
The Foster Rubicon Plaque.