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Androscoggin County, Maine

 

 

Early History of Poland, Maine

 

On Feb 3, 1735/6 the General Court of Province of Massachusetts Bay granted to certain officers and soldiers who had served in the expedition to Canada in 190 two townships of land, one which was called Bakerstown, was laid out in 1739 "Westerly of Merrimack river, and northerly of and adjoining to Contoocook," in the region where the town of Salisbury, NH is now situated. At that the Province of Massachusetts Bay claimed that territory; and the settlement of Bakerstown was begun, lots were laid out, and houses, mills built. In 1741, however, by a decision of King George II in Council, this region was adjudged to be in New Hampshire, the grant from Massachusetts was held, therefore, to be invalid, and after fruitless attempts on the part of proprietors to induce the King to allow the township to remain under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, as well as unsuccessful efforts to obtain a confirmation of the grant from New Hampshire Government, the settlement was abandoned. But, to compensate the proprietors of the original Bakerstown and their heirs for their losses, the General Court of Massachusetts granted to them in 1765 a new township in the province of Maine, to be laid out in the east side of the Saco River and to adjoin some former grants. To this new grant the name Bakerstown was transferred, and the first division of lots was drawn on 23 December 1767. In a petition of the settlers to the Massachusetts General Court, dated 22 Oct 1785 this region is described as "the Plantation called Bakerstown in the County of Cumberland."

The meetings of the proprietors of the Bakerstown grant were held in Newbury and Amesbury, Mass until May 1798; but from 1768 on settlements were made in Bakerstown then a wilderness, and on 17 Feb 1795 the plantation of Bakerstown in the district of Maine was incorporated by the general court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as the town of Poland, In early years of its existence the new town included the present towns of Poland and Minot, the greater part of the present city of Auburn, and the present town of Mechanic Falls. The northeastern part of Poland was set off on 18 Feb 1802 as the town of Minot, which included the present Minot, the greater part of Auburn and a part Mechanic Falls. The eastern part of Minot was set off on 24 Feb 1842 as the town (since 22 Feb 1869 the city) of Auburn, to which the town of Danville was annexed on 26 Feb 1867; and on 22 march 1893 the southwestern part of Minot and the northern part of Poland were incorporated as the town of Mechanic Falls.

Although Poland was incorporated in 1795, no records of the proceedings in the town meetings and no lists of the selectman, town clerks, and other town officers prior to 1824 are known to exist. According to the "History of Poland"; published by Poole Brothers at Mechanic Falls in 1890 (page 20) the town records previous to 1824, were kept in a chest of the chairman of the board of Selectman or of one of his colleagues; and it is probable that the records prior to 1824, with the exception of the book described below containing early vital records of the town, were burned, when the office of the selectmen was destroyed by a fire in 1823.

When the History of Poland was published in 1890, it was believed that this book of vital records also had been destroyed. At any rate, it had been missing for many years; but towards the end of the last decade of the nineteenth century it came to light a happy chance and was eventually returned to the custody of the town officers. According, to a letter from Mr. Charles E Waterman of Mechanic Falls, dated 1 October 1933 and addressed to the contributor of this article the late Francis O Purington a lawyer of Mechanic Falls who was much interested in genealogy and local history and bought and sold old records and second-handed books. He was riding one day through the village of Danville Junction when he saw a man wheeling out a barrel of papers which he had found in the attic of his house and was about to destroy, considering them to be of no value. Mr. Putington asked permission to examine these papers and among them he found the old book long believed to be lost or destroyed, containing early vital records of Poland. The owner of the papers which were about to be destroyed was according to Mr. Watermans recollection Charles Martin whose father Robert Martin a prominent man in the former town of Danville, was born in New Gloucester came to Danville in 1809 and died there in 1885 age 85 years. He taught fifty- four terms of school was a selectman of Danville Junction and represented Danville and Poland in the Maine Legislature from 1856 to 1863. He was also a justice of the peace and it may have been in that capacity that this old book of vital records was loaned to him or otherwise into his possession where it seems to have remained, forgotten. Perhaps by the town officers of Poland any by Robert Martin himself.

The greater part of the book thus saved from destruction contains birth records of the children of many of the settlers in the plantation of Bakerstown and its successor, the town of Poland, arranged by families and including also in some cases the birth dates of parents of these children. Usually the names places of birth, and dates of birth of children who were born before their parents detailed in Bakerstown or Poland are given as well as those of children born in Bakerstown or Poland. It is worthy of mote that the name Bakerstown is never used in these records, but that children born Bakerstown before its incorporation as Poland are entered as born in Poland. It is evident therefore, that this book was begun and that all these entries were made after the incorporation of the town of Poland. The heads of families in the town probably giving to the town clerk for entry in the records the names dates of birth and (usually) places of birth of all their children, whenever and whenever born. These family records of births with a few dates of death interspersed are followed by ninety six separate entries of deaths with dates extending (but not in chronological order) from Aug 17, 1786 to Oct 15, or 16th 1847 the death at this last mentioned date being entered as occurring in Albany and the last previously recorded death bearing the date of April 19, 1837. Only occasionally is the place of death

Given. That these records of deaths are by no means complete is evident. It is also clear that birth records were entered officially in this book until the middle of the nineteenth century and even later, Freeland Marble, town clerk signing birth records on mar 1, 1846 and Han 4, 1847, Stephen Gould town Clerk on June 10, 18543 and David Dunn esq. town clerk on march 23, 1840 Sept 25, 1850, Nov 29, 1854 April 1, 1855 and march 16, 1857-the date of the last birth recorded in this book. No records except those of births and deaths are entered in the book.