My Grandmother Harriet Putnam Means: Growing Up

Circa 1895. And the coming years…

My Great Grandparents William and Nellie Means


William Gordon Means was born January 15, 1855. Nellie Bly Getchell was born February 15, 1857.

William Means married Nellie B Getchell July 1, 1880 in Machiasport. Their wedding attire is displayed at the Gates House, Machiasport Maine.

They had 4 children: Otis, Harriet, William, Elsie.

Otis Witham born September 22, 1883

Hattie Putnam born February 1, 1885

William Gordon born November 29, 1891

Elsie Getchell born April 30, 1893

My great grandmother’s bible recorded the births of her children. It is of note that Harriet married (and eloped the next day) on her mother’s birthday, February 15th. And, my mother (Louise Johnson) and father (James “Gene” Rier) married on the same day in Portland, Maine, 1943. Nellie, her daughter Harriet and her granddaughter, my mother, were all the same age when they married, 23 years old.



Postcard from Billy Means

scan-1There is no postmark suggesting postcard was hand delivered. Circa early 1900s.


Johnson Cove and Calf Island, Roque Bluffs, Maine. The Means cottage: Edgemere. Circa late 1800s early 1900s.

Read more about my mother’s notorious uncle, Billy Means here.


The Union Republic. Machias Maine. November 12, 1931.

Of course, the locals whispered another story. Billy Means was shot and killed in a bootlegging dispute. He was my grandmother Harriet’s younger brother.

Read more of that story here, the years before Billy Means died.

Eliphalet Scribner Means

The second son of Otis and Elsie Means of Machiasport, Maine.

Eliphalet was born September 14, 1839. He married Helen of Robbinston June of 1864 in Machiasport. “In War Rebellion.” He died March 10, 1888. They had two daughters, Charlotte K (“Lottie”) and Carrie A. [Reference: 1913. The Means Family]

Eliphalet was my great grandfather William’s elder brother.

Carrie was mentioned in my grandmother Harriet’s letters of 1908. Grace Means grew up with Lottie.

As I perused the ancestors’ books and ledgers, I discovered that the two Atlases dated 1881 and 1892 belonged to Eliphalet. It was evident from his cash and freight ledgers that Eliphalet sold merchandise, eggs, meats and tropical fruits ordered from Boston. I wondered how he could do that much business in Machiasport. The answer was in the Atlas of Washington Co by George N Colby and Co.

The ES Means store was in the village of Machias: No 19 on the map, five buildings up Main Street from the P.O. and Customs House, across the street from Holway Sullivan Co Steam and Saw Mills (later the Phoenix Opera House).

Eliphalet’s photo was included in the portrait collection of Grace Adele Means. Grace wrote long descriptions of each ancestor on the back of each photo, sent to Machias, Maine from NYC.

Eliphalet was very special to Grace.

“He needs no eulogy. His face shows his sunny, sweet and lovable disposition. He had in life my deepest love and his memory is a priceless possession… Always in sympathy – never anything but serene and smiling to us children in spite of almost constant suffering from Civil War injuries. I never heard him rebuke or speak an unkind word.” 

Grace wrote on the back of Eliphalet’s photo to her Uncle William, my great grandfather:


To Hattie, my grandmother, Grace wrote:


Andrew Fuller Means

The eldest son of Otis and Elsie Means of Machiasport, Maine.

Otis Witham Means and Elsie Fuller Berry Means had eight children, five survived beyond infancy. After their daughter Francis died in 1871, Otis and Elsie raised Grace Adele, their granddaughter. Recorded in the “Means Family” notebook written by John H Means of Boston and sent to William G. Means in 1913, their children:

Andrew Fuller born Bluehill May 6, 1838. Married Francis A Sawyer in Machiasport March 17, 1864. He was a physician in Boston. “In War Rebellion.” He died March 3, 1905. She is alive in 1913. They had one son, Harry F, born June 1867, alive in 1913.

Eliphalet Scribner born September 14, 1839. Married Machiasport June 1864 Helen of Robinston.“In War Rebellion.” He died March 10, 1888. They had two daughters, Charlotte K and Carrie A.

Harriet E born September 25, 1841. Married Nathaniel M. Putnam in Boston, August 28, 1864. He died September 5, 1891. She died July 29, 1892. Both buried at Forest Hill Cemetery Boston.

Francis Adele born January 14, 1844. Married J J Drew in Machiasport. She died October 29, 1871. [One daughter, Grace Adele.]

Henry and Henrietta twins died in infancy.

Otis W born August 25, 1853. Died in infancy January 4, 1854.

William Gordon born Machias January 15, 1855. Married Nellie B Getchell July 1, 1880. They had 4 children: Otis, Harriet, William, Elsie.

The portrait collection of Grace Adele Means contains photos of Otis and Elsie Means and three of five children surviving beyond infancy. Andrew, Eliphalet, and Francis. Grace wrote long descriptions of our ancestors on the back of each photo, sent to her Uncle William in Machias, Maine from NYC.

In that portrait collection, Grace wrote on the back of Andrew’s photo.


1913. The Means Family

This post has been updated with a full scanned copy of the Means Family notebook found here1913.Means

When I was in sixth grade, Mrs. Luce gave the class an assignment: write a story about our ancestors. When I got home that day, I told Mom about my homework project. I hoped to write about my grandparents and great grandparents. She retrieved a small brown notebook from a closet draw entitled 1913. Means Family. Compliments of John H. Means Boston to William G Means. William Means was my great grandfather. I knew the book existed for no one could grow up in my home and not hear stories about my mother’s ancestors but I had never read it, nor glanced at the pages.

I opened the little book and read the first page:

Our Ancestors

Our great-great-great Grandfather and family.

Robert Means born 1689 married Jeane Armstrong, daughter of James or John Armstrong. Robert Means died Saco Dec 29, 1769 aged 80 years. Jeane died aged 102 years.

They had six children.

“In the autumn of 1718, vessels came from Ireland via Boston to Portland (then Falmouth) Maine (from Drakes History of Boston). They were descendants of a colony [from] Argyllshire in Scotland and settled in the North of Ireland about the middle of the 17th century. They were rigid Presbyterians and fled from Scotland to North of Ireland (Ulster) to avoid persecution of Charles I. Among them was James Armstrong with his sons John, Simon and Thomas and Robert Means who married his daughter. This colony with Rev Wm Mc Gregor at its head left Ireland in 5 vessels containing 120 families and arrived in Boston August 4, 1718 part settled in Maine and part in New Hampshire. “This company of immigrants among other important services rendered to the land of their adoption, introduced the Potatoe plant which had not before been cultivated in the country: Also the Linen spinning wheel, and the manufacture of Linen.

The spinning wheel had not appeared [on] our shores until the advent of these strange people, and it produced quite a sensation in Boston.

Societies were formed and Schools established to teach the art of spinning flax and the manufacture of its thread. At the first Anniversary of its introduction  ladies with their wheels paraded on the Boston Common for a trial of skill in spinning and prizes were awarded. During four years this novelty held its attraction and then gave way to some new excitement.”

Robert and Jeane Armstrong Means.

They had


John born 1722 our ancestor





The little notebook went on and on. I was hooked. I had two weeks to complete the assignment. I began to transcribe the whole notebook for my own copy – or at least most of it – and wrote an essay about my ancestors. I remember counting how many people descended from Robert and Jeane Armstrong in the ensuing two hundred years. Hundreds. I was one of them.






Related post:

My Great Great Grandparents’ Family. Otis and Elsie (Berry) Means.