American History and Genealogy Project


Swan Island Family Biographies

Thomas Dunbar

Thomas Dunbar came here in 1819 when a child eight years old, and was brought up in the family of Benjamin Smith. His parents resided at Deer Isle, where he had a brother Elisha, who died in 1893, at the age of seventy-five years. Thomas married Susan, a daughter of David Smith, 2d; he separated from his wife, after which he spent a roving life. After the marriage of his son, he went to Ellsworth to live with him, and died there, about eighty years of age.

Mrs. Dunbar afterwards married a Mr. Smith, of Jonesport, and after his death she became the wife of Peter Stanley. By her first marriage Mrs. Dunbar had one child, Joseph. He married Clara Batchelder, a daughter of Rev. Theophilus Batchelder, a Baptist clergyman. She was a most excellent woman, well educated and refined, and was well known throughout Hancock County, together with her sister, Annie O. Batchelder, as an excellent school teacher. They were often selected where strict discipline was required; they were large, muscular women and capable of meeting any emergency that might arise in school.

After the death of her husband Mrs. Dunbar became the wife of Daniel S. Beal, a wealthy man of Ellsworth. He was at the time of this marriage about eighty years of age, and had a family by his first wife. After his death, which occurred a few months after his marriage, it was found that he had willed his property to his second wife; his children contested the will, and, after a long trial which attracted a great deal of attention, the will was broken. Mrs. Beal died in Ellsworth in 1893.

William Nutter

William Nutter came here about the year 1800 from Mount Desert, and was a brother of Alexander Nutter, whom we have noticed as being the first settler at Irish point. He came soon after the departure of Joseph Prince, and took up all the land south of where Parker Bridges now owns, to the salt water. He built a small house where Rodney Sadler's now stands, he at that time being the only inhabitant on that side of the harbor. His wife was Amy Rich, of Mount Desert. Mr. Nutter died in Portland while there in a vessel. They were the parents of five children, one daughter and four sons. The daughter, Elizabeth, married Elwell W. Freethy, and now resides in Brooklin. Benjamin, the oldest son, married Eliza, a daughter of Eben Herrick; James and William were lost at sea; Josiah married Judith Roberts, and settled in Brooklin.

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Nutter married Eben Herrick, of Brooklin; she sold her place here and removed to Brooklin, where she spent the remainder of her life. By Mr. Herrick she had two children, Emma and Alethia, both of whom married in Boston. Mrs. Herrick died in 1866.

Joshua Sadler

Joshua Sadler came here in 1834, and his two brothers, Thomas and Moses, came about two years later. The Sadler family came to Maine from Gloucester. They settled in Georgetown, where these three brothers were born.

Joshua manned Mary Crabtree, of Vinalhaven, where they lived for several years, a part of their children having been born there. When he came to this island he bought the land now owned by Rodney Sadler, besides the large tract extending to the south and southwest of this place to the salt water. This he bought of the widow of William Nutter, who was the first settler on this land. Mr. Nutter had built a small house where Rodney Sadler's now stands. After Thomas came the two brothers, and lived for some time in this small house. They afterwards divided the tract of land that Joshua had taken up, the latter taking the southern half including the "Point" and Thomas had the northern half. Joshua then built a house where Mrs. Margaret Sprague now lives. They were the parents of fourteen children.

Mr. Sadler sold his place, the southern part to John Ross, and the "Point" to Silas Hardy. He then went to Ellsworth, where he died about the year 1864. His wife died at Deer Isle, where she went to live with her son James. Their sons were: Chaney, who married Abigail Bridges; they lived here some years, then removed to Ellsworth, where he now resides; James, who married Margaret Stinson, of Deer Isle, where he settled; George, who also lives at Deer Isle; he has been twice married; his first wife was Lydia Ball; Benjamin, who married Justina Bridges; they removed to Ellsworth; Ehen, who married Lizzie Billings, of Deer Isle; he was lost at sea; after his death Mrs. Sadler became the wife of Angus McDonald; John, who died in the South while in the service of the government during the Civil war.

The daughters were: Julia, wife of Thomas Trundy, of Deer Isle; Lydia, wife of Leander Milliken, of Ellsworth; he was lost at sea; Georgiana and Betsey, who were married after they went to Ellsworth. The other children died while young.

Thomas Sadler

Thomas Sadler, a brother of the subject of the last sketch, was born in Georgetown. As already stated, he took the northern half of the tract of land first taken up by Joshua. He built a house near where Merrill Sadler now lives. Just previous to his death he built the house now owned by Rodney C. Sadler. In 1827 he married Hannah Hunt, of Georgetown, where they spent the first eight years of their married life. At the solicitation of his brother Joshua, he came here to live. The two brothers owned a fishing vessel, and came here on account of the convenience for carrying on their business.

Mrs. Sadler, who still survives, is in her eighty-ninth year, and possesses a remarkable memory for one of her age. She related to me much concerning the early settlers here. The land they occupied was covered with alders and a young growth of spruce when she came. This land had previously been chopped over, the logs having been sawed at the mill. There were then only three or four log huts in what is now school district No. 4, none of which could be seen from her house. There were no roads, only paths through the woods. The only inhabitants besides her husband and two brothers were the widow Rebecca Sprague, two Gott brothers, John and Joseph, and on the other side of the harbor there were John Gott, sr., father of the last two named, Edward Gott, Benjamin Stinson and William Stanley. There was then no store on the island, and most of their supplies came from Rockland; these were got in exchange for wood and fish. Amid these privations and desolation their family was reared. A large family, with the large amount of work which it brings, kept them busy, and Mrs. Sadler said she was never discontented with her lot. They were the parents of eight children.

The sons were: William, who married Maria Ross and lives in Rockland; Thomas, who married Lovina Joyce; after her death he married Mrs. Julia Oakes, of Gloucester, and after her death, married Mrs. Abbie Dyer, of Vinalhaven; his home is now in Everett, Mass.: Rodney C, who married Ann Stewart, and lives on the homestead lot.

The daughters were: Clara, wife of Newell Smith; they lived in Rockland; Mr. Smith died of yellow fever in 1882; after his death Mrs. Smith married Horton Burpee; Izetta, wife of Cornelius Wasgatt; they now reside in Everett; Mary, wife of Eben Smith; he was lost at sea; she then became the wife of David H. Sprague; Elizabeth, wife of Freeland H. Benson; they reside in Seattle, Wash.; Rosilla, wife of Elias Sprague. Thomas Sadler, sr., died in 1868, aged sixty-one years.

Moses Sadler

Moses Sadler took up the lot south of the Gott's, extending to the lot owned by his brother Thomas, which land is now owned in part by Parker Bridges' heirs. He built a house where Mr. Bridges' now stands. His wife was Eunice Smith, who died in 1863, at the age of forty-three years. Their children were: Sylvanus, who married in the South, and now resides in Seattle; Lorenzo, who was lost at sea; two children who died young.

Mr. Sadler, sr., left here and settled near the Mooseabec River. After the death of his wife he married a Mrs. Dunbar.

James T. Srague

James T. Sprague came here in 1820 from Union, Maine, and settled on Harbor Island where he built a log house. Here he brought his family. He remained there, however, only a few years, when he went to Marshall's Island. He occupied one part of the island, and Jephtha Benson had the other. Afterwards he came back and took up one hundred acres of land in the southeastern part of the island, this being a part of the lot of five hundred acres which had for many years been taxed to Michael O'Maley, and who had now ceased to own it for nonpayment of taxes thereon. He built a house near the head of the long cove just below where Lemuel Sprague now lives.

The Sprague family came to Maine from Block Island and settled in the town of Union, where many of that name still reside. Mr. Sprague's father, John Sprague, had a family of fourteen children, most of whom removed from the place of their birth.

James, the subject of this sketch, lived in Union until after he was married and had a family of three children, the present James Sprague being two years old when they came here. Mr. Sprague married Rebecca Hewes, of St. George. She had been previously married to Israel Elwell, of St. George, by whom she had two children, Israel Elwell and Susan Elwell. By Mr. Sprague she had six children, Jeremiah, Samuel and James, who were born in Union, and Eunice, John and David, born here. Mrs. Sprague died in 1862, aged seventy-nine years. The children will be further noticed.

Jeremiah Sprague married in New London, where he resided until his death.

Samuel Sprague married Phoebe Reed, of Tremont, where he settled. After the death of his wife, he married her sister, Abigail Reed. A few years previous to his death he moved here, and lived on his father's place. He died in 1854, aged forty-four years. His widow now resides at Tremont.

James Sprague took up a tract of land south of his father's, in 1838. This lot contained one hundred acres, of which he kept seventy-five acres, and the two Stanley brothers had the remaining twenty-five acres. He built the house where he still resides. He married Lois S. Morey, in 1839, by whom he had the following children, all of whom settled here: Leander, Elias, David H., John N., Martha and Laura. Mrs. Sprague died in 1885, aged sixty-four years.

David E. Sprague married Phoebe Smith in 1848. She was a daughter of Benjamin Smith, whose place Mr. Sprague had. It is the lot north of the carrying place. Mr. Sprague was for many years a justice of the peace, and often served as town officer. He built the house now occupied by Martin Kent. Mr. Sprague died in 1893, aged sixty-nine years. Mrs. Sprague died in 1896, aged sixty-eight years.

John N. Sprague took up the lot north of his father's; it contained one hundred acres, which he sold to Albion and Isaiah Stanley. He built the house where the latter now lives. He afterward bought the lot of land formerly owned by Joshua Sadler, now occupied by Mrs. Margaret Sprague. He lived in the house now occupied by his widow, which was built by Joshua Sadler. This land includes most of the stone quarries that are being operated at the present time by Matthew Baird, of New York. In 1843 he married Martha, daughter of William Reed, of Mt. Desert. She died in 1854, aged thirty-four years. He afterwards married Margaret Stanley, who survives him.

Eunice, the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James T. Sprague, became the wife of Joseph Gott.

William Stanley

William Stanley came here from Tremont in which town lie was born in 1795. His wife was Ruth, daughter of Peter Gott. They were married before coming to this place, which was about the year 1814. They moved upon the place then owned by Peter Gott, and with whom Mr. Gott lived. This lot of land adjoins on the south the lot first taken up by Moses Staples; it is now occupied by Mr. Stanley's descendants, and extends from where David Smith, 3d, now lives to Hocomock head. Their house was located where the widow of Isaiah L. Stanley now lives.

For many years Mr. Stanley was a master mariner. He served efficiently in many of the town offices. He is the ancestor of all by that name on this island. They have multiplied rapidly, and often intermarried. They have been a hardy, honest, industrious family. Few of this family ever lived to any great age. They were the parents of ten children, most of whom settled here. Mr. Stanley died in 1856, aged sixty-one years. His wife died four years previous, at the age of fifty-four years.

Their children were: Edmond, born in 1815; Joseph, Clarissa, widow of Capt. Daniel Bridges; Peter; Herbert, who died young; Nancy, wife of Hiram Kent; William, who died at the age of twenty-four years; Lucy, wife of Moses Bridges, 2d; after his death she became the wife of Freeman Gross; Mrs. Gross died in 1895, aged fifty-nine years; Isaiah L. and Freeman. The last named and Mrs. Bridges are the only survivors of the family. The sons who lived here will be further noticed.

Edmond Stanley, together with his brother Joseph, took up the twenty-five acres of land lying southwest of James Sprague's, and which was a part of his one hundred acre lot. His wife was Betsy, daughter of David Smith, 2d, by whom he had ten children. They were: Albion, Isaiah, Jeremiah, George, David, John, Margaret, wife of John N. Sprague, Sultana, wife of Fred Dunham, Ellen, who died unmarried, and Hannah, wife of Samuel Stanley.

Joseph Stanley settled on a lot next to his brother Edmond. His wife was Abigail Smith, sister of the wife of the subject of the last sketch. They were parents of ten children, as follows: Joseph, Horace, Ansel, Samuel, Albert, who fell from a bluff and was drowned at the age of two years; Thomas, Elizabeth, wife of Albion Stanley: Eunice, wife of Elmer Holbrook; Lucy A., wife of Stephen Dunham, jr.; Margaret, wife of George E. Trask, and Lois.

Peter Stanley lived on the place taken up by David Smith, 2d, and in whose family Mrs. Smith lived during the latter part of her life. His wife was Sarah Rice, of Long Island, by whom he had three children, Lucy A., wife of Isaiah W. Stanley: Elmira, wife of Warren Sprague; George E. After the death of his wife he married Emily Rich, of Long Island, by whom he had two children, Alwilda, wife of John Stanley, and Sarah, who married Harry Sargent, of Ellsworth, where she now resides. After the death of his second wife Peter Stanley married Mrs. Susan Smith, daughter of David Smith, 2d. Mrs. Smith had twice before been married: her first husband was Thomas Dunbar, by whom she had one child, Joseph; she afterwards married a Mr. Smith of Jonesport, by whom she had one daughter, Melissa, who married Joseph Stanley, 2d. Mrs. Stanley died in 1896, aged seventy-two years. Peter Stanley died in 1884, aged sixty-two years.

Isaiah L. Stanley lived on the place that his father settled on. His wife was Sapphira Herrick, daughter of Kimball Herrick. Mr. Stanley died in 1892, aged sixty-five years.

William Fife

William Fife came here from New Hampshire, and built a house and store just below where Elmer Holbrook now lives. Here he carried on quite an extensive business. He seems to have been an enterprising business man, and often served as town officer. His wife was Ruth Gott, by whom he had four children. They were: Sarah J., born in 1834, who was non compos mentis; Elmira, born in 1836, who became the wife of Morris Rich, of Tremont; William, born in 1839, Elnathan, born in 1841. The former of the two sons is dead; the latter went to New Hampshire. His wife died in 1844, at the age of twenty-eight years. In 1845 he married Sarah Sellers, of Deer Isle. She was a daughter of William Sellers, who came to Deer Isle from York, Maine, in 1775. His wife soon separated from him, and he moved to Ellsworth where he died in 1855. In 1862 Mrs. Fife married Charles Fish, of Thorndike. She died two years later in Union, at the age of fifty-six years.

Jephtha Benson

Jephtha Benson was born in Oxford County, Maine, near 1757, and was said to have been married there, but of this first family we have no record. While a young man he entered the Revolutionary war and served throughout the war. In the year 1800 he came to Little Deer Isle, and took up a tract of land. This afterwards became the property of Silas L. Hardy by whom it was occupied until his death in 1859. It is now the property of Mr. Hardy's sons.

Mr. Benson again entered the service of the government at the breaking out of the war of 1812. He was at Bagaduce when the British took possession of that town. He had in his possession an old English rifle which he got at Castine at this time; it was highly prized by him, and he kept it until his death.

At the close of the war of 1812 he went to Marshall's island, which lies to the west of Swan's Island. It is a very valuable island to this day, being assessed at $10,000 by the State, and was, as we have seen, included in Swan's purchase. This island Mr. Benson leased to Swan's agent. He was the first settler there. He cleared the land and built a log house. Afterwards he built a timber house which has long since gone to decay.

He married Mrs. Mary Ross, widow of John Ross, who lived in Brunswick. She was a daughter of Thomas Kench, whom we have noticed as being the first settler in this town. Mr. Ross's father, Barton Ross, was a pioneer settler of Brunswick, and owned a large tract of land there. At his death he divided his property among his six children, one of whom was John Ross, whom we have mentioned. He built a house upon his lot, and reared his family. He sailed in a ship from Castine, at which place he married his wife, Mary Kench. Mr. Ross was lost at sea in 1817, while engaged in the West India trade. They had three children, whom Mrs. Ross brought to Marshall's island when she married Mr. Benson.

These children were: John, born in 1812, Thomas, and a daughter Evelyn, who died unmarried. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Benson were: Sarah, who married and lives in Charlestown, Mass.; Mary, who became the wife of Edwin Smith, and resided at Jamaica Plain; Maria, who married a Mr. Wood, of Boston; Jephtha and Judson, who were lost at sea; Freelan H., the only surviving son, lives at Seattle, Wash. When Mr. Benson came to Marshall's island he only leased the property, so he secured no title to it by his long residence there. He was dispossessed by Rufus B. Allyn, Swan's agent, in 1835, after which he removed to Brooksville, where he died at the age of ninety-eight years. After his death Mrs. Benson came to Swan's Island and resided with her children until her death, which occurred in 1874, at the age of eighty-two years. Marshall's island was afterwards sold to John B. Redman, of Brooksville, and Charles K. Tilden, of Castine. It is at present owned by Oliver Lane, of Brooklin. John Ross was born at Brunswick, and came with his mother to Marshal Island. His wife was Elizabeth, a daughter of Moses Bridges. They lived for some years on Calf Island. He then bought a piece of land of Benjamin Stinson, and built the house where Hezekiah Holbrook now lives. Mr. Ross died in 1845, aged twenty-nine years. Their children were Julia, Evelyn, Emma, and some others who died young. Mrs. Ross, in 1848, married William Annis, who was born in Appleton in 1802. They resided here until 1855, when they removed to Deer Isle and bought the place near Stinson's Neck bar. They were the parents of several children who still reside at Deer Isle. Mr. Annis was drowned in February, 1872, while crossing the bar near his home. He was seventy years of age. Mrs. Annis was born in Sedgwick in 1818, and died at Deer Isle December 19, 1892.

Thomas Ross was born in Brunswick, and for several years after his mother married Jephtha Benson, he lived with his grandfather, Thomas Kench, at Brooksville. He is the only survivor of the family, and resides in Maiden, Mass. His wife was Diana Norwood, of Mount Desert. He bought one acre of land of Silas Hardy and in 1845 built the house which is standing near the shore below Hiram Stanley's house. When Joshua Sadler moved away, Mr. Ross bought all of his possessions, about one hundred acres, which includes all the land south of the road leading from No. 4 schoolhouse to the point. In i860 he sold his property here, and removed to Addison, where he bought a farm. Their children were: John, who married Fannie Wass, of Addison; he died of yellow fever while captain of a brig bound for San Domingo; they put in at Fortune Island, where he died and was buried; Mary, wife of Oscar Evans, of Boston; Sarah, wife of George Haskell, of Boston; Ella and Malinda, who died young; Charles, who was lost at sea: Lizzie, wife of Sampson Hewson; Laura, wife of Frank Hickson. The last two reside at Maiden, Mass., and are the only surviving children. Mr. Ross at present resides in this town.

Silas Hardy

Silas Hardy came here in 1825, and bought Harbor island of Seth and Zachariah Kempton when they left this place. He was a son of Capt. Peter Hardy, jr., of Deer Isle, whose ancestors came to Deer Isle from Worcester, Mass. Mr. Hardy married Hannah Adams, a sister, of John Adams, of Beverly. He traded for a few years in a store on Harbor Island where Kempton Brothers formerly traded. He sold Harbor Island to William Stinson, and bought of Joshua Sadler the point of land near the site of Swan's mills. Here he built a house and store, and did a large business. It was the only store on the island at the time, and, in fact, it was the first large store on the island. Others had traded here before, but they kept only a small stock of goods, such as fishermen's supplies. As his business grew he not only secured the trade of the island population, but also did a brisk business fitting the large fleet which here found a market for its fish. He bought and cured a large amount of fish. He also did quite a business in shipbuilding; the largest vessel he built in 1835, called the "Henry M. Johnson", which he built for parties in Newark, New Jersey. Mr. Hardy was one of the first justices of the peace appointed on the island, and nearly all the marriage ceremonies in those times were performed by him. He had acquired a good education, and was an excellent business man.

They were the parents of six children, three sons and three daughters. The sons were: Silas, jr., a carpenter, who resides in the West; he is unmarried; Thompson H., who was killed in the Civil war; Arthur W., who died at the age of twenty-three years. The daughters were: Mary E., wife of Oliver Lane, of Stinson's Neck, Deer Isle; Emma and Effie J., who reside in Chicago. Mr. Hardy, sr., left here in 1847. He sold "the point" to Moses Bridges in exchange for a part of Marshall's island. This in turn he sold to Oliver Lane, the present owner. After leaving here, Mr. Hardy lived for several years at Winterport. During this time he sailed in a ship between New York and Australia. From one of these voyages he did not return, and it was supposed that he died in Australia. His wife then went to Illinois with her brother, John Adams, where she now lives at a very advanced age.

John Adams. John Adams came here in 1840 from Beverly, Mass. His wife was Lucy, daughter of Peter Hardy, jr., of Deer Isle, and a sister of Silas Hardy, with whom Mr. Adams came to work when Mr. Hardy began trading. He was a carpenter and worked at his business here and at Deer Isle. He afterward went to Winterport, and later removed to Illinois. Mr. Adams was well educated, and for a number of years taught school here, and often served as town officer. He died in 1885.

They were the parents of six children, as follows: Thomas J., who was a soldier in the Civil war; after the war he bought an orange grove in Florida; he now resides in Indian territory; Lucy J., who was a school teacher in the West; she was drowned while boating on Chrystal lake, Illinois; Ellen, who is a teacher; Mary A. and Zella, who are unmarried and reside in the West; Lulu, who died at the age of two years.

Source: A History of Swan's Island, Maine, by H.W. Small, MD, Ellsworth Me, Hancock County Publishing Company, Printers, 1808



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