I love learning about the colorful history of Lubec. My great great grandparents Ingraham and Mary Rier immigrated to Lubec from Nova Scotia in the 1870s with their four children. My grandparents Frank and Elizabeth (Keegan) Rier lived most of their lives there. Growing up, I visited Grammy Rier often at her home overlooking Johnson’s Bay, and my aunts, uncles and cousins who lived nearby.
My grandmother, Elizabeth Keegan Rier, worked in the sardine industry in Lubec most of her life beginning in the early 1900s into the 1970s. According to my Uncle Barney, she left school after third grade in Trescott and went to work in the Lubec sardine “camps.” She, and many other women from Lubec, have fond memories of their work in the sardine factory. Grammy Rier always said, it was work, but yet, a very social event for the women and a friendly competition every day.
The following is an excerpt from the book 200 Hundred Years of Lubec History, 1776 – 1976 by Ryerson and Johnson, published by the Lubec Historical Society. It is a great reference book to learn more about my family history and can be found at the Lubec Memorial Library.
The last page of this history “Yesterdays Sardine Factory – Today” was written by my Uncle Barney who established a Sardine Museum in Lubec after he retired, which he opened when he felt like it, but mostly he collected and worked on antiques and old machinery.
Washington County, Maine In the Civil War 1861-66 by Ken Ross lists every soldier and sailor from Washington County, contains detailed descriptions of the battles they fought in and much, much more. A writer friend of mine kindly loaned me this book so I could find my ancestors who fought in the Civil War.
More than 4700 men from Washington County served in the Civil War. Over 490 of these men died of disease, more than 224 men died of wounds, over 590 men who were wounded survived to live with their wounds, 509 were disabled.
Maine and the nation paid a high price in the Civil War. It claimed 620,000 lives, nearly as many lives as American lost in all other conflicts combined (644,000).
My ancestors who fought in the Civil War include my great grandfather William Means’ eldest brothers, Andrew and Eliphalet Means, sons of Otis and Elsie Means. Both men were Sergeants in the 3rd Battalion (The Third Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry); both men were disabled.
Andrew Fuller Berry Means enlisted at age 23 and served from 12/11/61 to 7/21/62. Battles that the 3rd Battalion participated in during that time period were:
1ST BULL RUN (1861 July 21)
BAILEY’S CROSS ROAD (1861 August 27 & 28) YORKTOWN (1862 April 5-May 4) WILLIAMSBURG (1862 May 5)
FAIR OAKS (1862 May 31)
SEVEN PINES (1862 June 1)
WHITE OAK SWAMP (1862 June 25)
CHARLES CITY CROSS ROADS (1862 June 30)
MALVERN HILL (1862 July 1)
Eliphalet Scribner Means enlisted at age 22 and served from 12/11/16 to 12/11/63. Battles that the 3rd Battalion participated in during that time period are listed above, as well as those named below:
2nd BULL RUN (1862 August 30)
CHANTILLY (1862 September 1)
FREDERICKSBURG (1862 December 12-15)
CHANCELLORSVILLE (1863 May 1-5)
GETTYSBURG (1863 July 1-3)
WAPPING HEIGHTS (1863 July 23)
AUBURN MILLS (1863 October 12)
KELLY’S FORD (1863 November 7)
ORANGE GROVE (1863 November 27 )
MINE RUN (1863 November 30)
Andrew Means was a physician in Boston. After the war, Eliphalet was the proprietor of the ES Means store in Machias. They both lived with their disabilities, as did hundreds of other men, for many years. Andrew died in 1905 at the age of 67. Eliphalet died at the age of 49 in 1888.
Washington County, Maine In the Civil War 1861-66 by Ken Ross is available on Amazon in paperback for $18.00, a valuable addition to your reference library.
UPDATE: This book can be found at the Whitneyville Library and at The Washington County Courthouse Heritage Center Museum and Genealogy Research Room in Machias.
“They did not know enough to run” Private Samuel B. Wing
TIME-LINE WITH HISTORICAL INFORMATION (47 pgs.) compiled by Craig Young
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! There is a fine, old fashioned blizzard today.
You will note the resident duck, Harriet, keeps watch over the lake as she has all of my life.
More shots from a sunny, winter day.
As I began researching and writing about my Keegan ancestors, I sought more information about Irish immigration into Washington County. They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine, edited by Michael C. Connolly, was recommended in a post comment. Recently, I found the book at Lubec Memorial Library among their fine collection of books on Maine history. It is a delightful book packed with well-researched information about the Irish immigration into Maine. The foreword was written by Senator George Mitchell. An entire chapter is devoted to Washington County entitled: “Ireland Along the Passamaquoddy: Rathlin Islanders in Washington County, Maine.” A portion of the chapter focuses on Trescott, West Lubec, Pembroke and Perry. My ancestors immigrated to Trescott in 1836.
I wondered how they decided to come there, how they lived out their lives. After I read the book, I wrote a summary about the families of my GG and great grandfathers, weaving the genealogy with details from the book, working my way through time up to my grandmother Elizabeth Keegan Rier. Next, I am starting on a bit of historical fiction that begins when Grammy Rier was a little girl, living on a farm in Trescott.
I hope to bring my ancestors to life!
MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER JAMES KEEGAN SR.
In 1836, James Keegan arrived in the New World from Dublin, Ireland, with his young bride, Elizabeth Moran. Their port of entry is unknown, but many Irish immigrants who settled in Washington County, Maine came into Canadian Maritime ports because fares for passage were half the price into America. James may have worked in Canada for a time as did many other Irish immigrants to save money to purchase land and build a homestead. The couple settled in Trescott among other early Irish pioneers who made permanent homes there before the Great Famine in Ireland began in 1845.
Trescott, West Lubec, Pembroke and Perry attracted Irish families where farming, fishing, shipbuilding, and cutting timber provided opportunities for newcomers, as did the Pembroke Irish Works, a thriving foundry. James followed other Irish farmers who settled primarily in Trescott and West Lubec. They found cheap land, plentiful fuel, and Cobscook Bay offered a means of transport. As early as 1829, three pioneers from Rathlin Island off the Northeast coast of Ireland, Neil Black, Dundan Bradley and Lauglin Black, acquired land along Cobscook Bay. They joined other Irish families there, many from Ulster, fishing the Cobscook coves and farming the land between Trescott and Lubec.
There was a strong sense of community and shared traditions in these small towns and villages in eastern Maine. Often whole families from young children to grandparents crossed the Atlantic together, built homes and worked the land. A pathfinder or pioneering family established a base, sent letters and money for passage to friends and kin in chain migration. In 1844, the year James appeared at the Supreme Judicial Court in Machias to petition for naturalization, he was one of 126 immigrants from Ireland and England. Most of those who specified a port of entry traveled via Saint John or Saint Andrews, New Brunswick or Halifax, Nova Scotia.
This growing community drew the attention of the Catholic Church, already having established a presence in eastern Maine. As early as the 1830s and 1840s, circuit riders from Eastport and missionary priests from Pleasant Point ministered to the Irish flock. In 1852, the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church was built beside a forest of pines in Trescott.
James built his home beside the Saunders Meadow Stream not far from the South Branch of the Cobscook River, west of the Bay. The Murray and Moran families built homes on that stream, close enough to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church to hear the bell ring on Sundays. The family story is that James’ home was built of wood and stone into the side of a hillock. Homes the Irish built were not of thatch and stone as in the home country. Instead they took on the character of their Yankee neighbors as timber was plentiful. The Irish kept their Catholic identity but quickly adapted to their new environment in terms of building styles, material culture, and farming. Irish farmers like James learned new methods and how to use new implements, including using oxen as draught animals, a technique unknown in Ireland. Farms grew a variety of crops from locally obtained seeds: barley, peas, pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, garlic, onions, radishes, turnips, cabbages, lettuce, parsley and melons. Corn, beans and squash came from the Passamaquoddy. Cattle provided milk and butter. Apples from seedlings brought from Europe were harvested and cider made in the Fall. Wild blueberry and cranberry abounded. As in the home country, sheep were raised for wool to make clothing.
In 1838, James and Elizabeth’s first child, William, was born. A daughter, Mary, arrived two years later followed by six more children in the coming years: Anne, John, Eliza, James Jr., Catherine and Thomas. James Sr. farmed all his life and was active within the community, serving as the Superintendent of the School Committee for 32 years. He died in 1879 at the age of 67; his obituary lauded his devotion to his family, his Church and his dedication to education.
MY GREAT GRANDFATHER JAMES KEEGAN JR.
James Keegan Jr., my great grandfather, was the 7th child of James and Elizabeth Keegan, born in 1847. He worked on his father’s farm growing up and well into adulthood, as did his younger brother Thomas. One year after James Sr. died, the Keegan homestead was occupied by his widow Elizabeth, age 74, James Jr., age 32, Thomas, age 29, and his wife Katherine (Kate), age 28. James Jr. likely delayed marriage after his father’s death to assist in caring for his mother and working the farm. He married Margaret “Maggie” Murray in 1886, who lived close by, the daughter of Irish immigrants via Saint John, New Brunswick. James and Maggie had seven children between 1887 and 1895: Winnifred, Tresa (Teresa), James, Mary, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Katherine (Kathe), and Margaret (Maggie). Sadly, James’ wife Maggie succumbed to a bout of pneumonia and died in 1896 at the age of 38 leaving James to care for their children, including their infant daughter. Three years later, James Jr.’s mother, Elizabeth, died at the age of 80. By 1898, Thomas and his wife moved to Lubec with their youngest children Fred, age 14, and John, age 12. where they raised their five children. He partnered with James McCurdy to open the Union Sardine Company while James Jr. stayed at the Trescott homestead with his children.
Life must have been tough for a man raising seven children alone, albeit with the help of his family and neighbors. My grandmother was his 5th child, Elizabeth. I was told that Grammy had to quit school after third grade to work in the sardine camps in Lubec. By 1910, she and her eldest sister Winnifred worked as servants in households in Lubec. The next year, at age 19, my grandmother married Frank Rier, a mechanic from Lubec, in Leominster, MA where her sister Mary lived.
nonfiction, well-researched historical fiction, stories about where they lived, how they lived in their time. When I wrote about my grandmother Harriet and her 1908 letters, I borrowed every book I could find on local history at the library (Porter Memorial Library). Most helpful was: A Maine Hamlet by Lura Beam, published in 1957, second printing 2004. I had read this book as a young girl but this time read it with fascination. Beam describes the village of Marshfield 1894 – 1904 when she lived with her grandparents. My grandmother, Harriet Means Johnson, grew up in Machias less than two miles away from Marshfield in the same time period as Beam. A Maine Hamlet takes one back to another time with stories about Beam’s memories in Marshfield.
Beam was educated at University of California in Berkeley and then Barnard, the college for women at Cornell in NY. She went on to a career in education, sociology, and writing. Her insights are valuable into what is now an elusive place and time for many. She calls us to write about our memories, tell our stories and those of our grandparents.