Ellen Fenlason
October 21, 1980

(Names and other words that could not be transcribed are in italics. Unknown voices are referred to as ďmanĒ or ďwoman.Ē Comments, explanations, and additional names are in parentheses.)
 

Jane Dudley: This is October 21, 1980 at Pocomoonshine Lake. We are in the Dudleyís cabin and this is Jane Dudley speaking. We are gathered here at the Alexander-Crawford Historical Society board members, and also regular members and we have with us Ellen Fenlason of Danforth, wife of Harold Fenlason. Haroldís family goes back very far in our Alexander-Crawford community. We also have Ruth Dwelly here to tell us about what she has discovered on Breakneck Mountain. And, we have other members here who are going to join in on this conversation. Ellen, why donít you start?

Ellen Fenlason: Iíd be glad to. I think that you might be interested in the early, early start of, oh, you know, of the first baby in Alexander. When Machias was settled, there were 16 original settlers. One of them was Samuel Scott. He was married to Susan Perry, and they had a large family: Nathaniel, Sarah, Rosemond, Samuel, Wallace, Jesse, William, Mark, John, Pamela, and Perry. They were born in Machias. When the boys grew up, evidently most of them went into the lumbering business. Frank Fenlasson told me the name of the man who had a lumbering operation in Alexander and unfortunately I canít give that to you. Mark, one of Wallaceís sons - by the way, Wallace was on the - in the battles of Margaretta. Heís your hero as such. Mark married a Sally Elsmore. She was the daughter of Moses Elsmore. Now, there was a Ephraim and Anna Andrews and they had a daughter, Lydia. Lydia married this Moses Elsmore. And, Sally was one of their daughters. Sally married Mark Fenlason. They were married in Machias, and I have the intentions, the 20th of October - the 20th of October in 1812. But, there seems to be some confusion between the date that they were married and their intentions, and I have found quite a few mistakes in that so donít start counting because Iím not sure exactly when Sally and Mark were married but they were married. Sally Fenlason, the first child was born in Machias. She married a Rowland Cushing Dudley who came from Winslow, Maine, and they had one, two, three, four, five, six, nine children. I donít know whether she came to Alexander when Mark and Sally came or not. But, in your microfilm we find that - the Alexander film starts with the first child who was born here in Alexander, a Freeman Putnam Fenlason. He was born June fourth - either 14th or 15th. I believe 1814.

Jane Dudley: Isnít that great.

Ellen Fenlason: Now, when they came to Alexander, you see, they started with Freeman. Then they had Mary Ann Fenlason, a Daniel Alan Fenlason, and one of his children or grandchildren married into the Vose family. We had Lydia Fenlason, Nancy Fenlason. We had a Mark Harris Fenlason. He was born in 1825 and he married a Getchell girl and they moved out to Minnesota, and I have all of their history from a lady out there, Alice Fenlason who is related to Freemanís brother. We have Ruth Ellen, Hannah Fenlason and a Moses Cilla Fenlason. Now, Sally could have been gone from the family when this was recorded because in your Alexander microfilm on page 66, it lists the family but it doesnít include Sally. I looked it over and saw that Sally evidently was married when her father died. In 1840 the record - the census say Mark - er, Sal, Markís widow, and I found out at the courthouse that Mark died in May of 1838. He was about 50 and Sally was left with this large family. Freeman had married. Letís see. He married in Alexander by the Reverend George Childs November 2, 1837. You see that was just before his father died, but the rest of the children evidently were with Sally. The youngest was this Moses who was six years old. Sally must have been very poor because she didnít put Markís will into probate until 1844, and I have - I got down to the courthouse the records of this probate. I donít have the will, but I have the people that were appointed to take an inventory of the goods that were left, and I have the actual inventory. This would give you an idea of this poor little family. They had three hardwood bedsteads worth three dollars; a writing desk worth a dollar; a timepiece, three dollars; a half dozen chairs, fifty cents; a dining room table, a dollar fifty; a light stand, looks like 37 and Ĺ cents; a cupboard, a dollar fifty; two wooden chests, fifty cents; a small looking glass, seventeen cents; two feather beds, eight dollars; two quilts, two dollars, two comforters, fifty cents; quantity of cooking ware, a dollar; a big kettle, fifty cents; and this is one tea something and that was fifty cents. Then we had six pair of sheets for a dollar; a loom, eight dollars; a small wheel, two dollars; a brass kettle, one dollar; a pair of shovels and tongs, seventy five cents. And, the grand total of Sallyís worldly goods according to the inventory was $45.09 and a half cents.

Jane Dudley: Ellen, we have an antique dealer here who is a member, Mary Williams, and I wonder if all this was gathered together, Mary, what would it be worth today.

Mary Williams: I donít think you could buy it at that price.

Ellen Fenlason: So, Sally evidently stayed here, stayed around here and probably went to live with one of her children. I havenít checked. There are many Sally Fenlasons around, but the family was in the area and that takes care of that family. Letís go back to Freeman Putnam Fenlason. He married Harriet Newell Dunne, and I told you, he was married November the second 1837 by the Reverend George Childs, and that was in Alexander. And the children, Myra Adelaide - on the 1850 census she was called Maria, and that was in 1839, November the fourth. And, then thereís an Elvira Evelyn, but on the 1850 census that was listed as Alvin E., so I donít know whether it was male or female. I didnít check the ďmĒ or the ďf.Ē Charles Weston, and I found out that some of his relatives went to - in the Boston area. Harold knew one of them and then there was a Barbara who was from that family. She was married to some doctor. Then this Harris Freeman. He was the one that moved out to Minneapolis and the woman out there sent me the complete history of that family out there. They went - let me see if I can find it. I assume that these folks must have come along the Seneca Turnpike Road to Chicago and then to LaCross. From LaCross they would have come up the Mississippi River by boat to St. Paul Minnesota.

Jane Dudley: Ellen, what year was that?

Ellen Fenlason: Now - at least Iím guessing that Alinda is a Getchell because Mark, Harris Mark Fenlason came west to Minnesota in 1852.

Jane Dudley: 1852.

Ellen Fenlason: And, then she was very kind and sent me this. She told me that for years and years her family thought that Mark must have had a quarrel with his family because they had never heard anything about his relatives, and someone wrote to me - I think a man down in Belfast heard of Haroldís name through legislature and he said, ďwould you help?Ē I became interested and so I dug it up and I sent this information to this Alice Fenlason in Minneapolis and she was delighted and she said that she had so much trouble getting records out of Wesley, and that was to her proof that her grandparent had moved out there.

Jane Dudley: Now, do you know where the house was where the first baby was born?

Ellen Fenlason: No, I donít. I was hoping that when you did this work up on this hill that you would find out because evidently they must have settled somewhere close together. It was a lumbering - - -

Jane Dudley: You spoke about a lumbering company that Frank Fenlason was not able to supply that - - -

Ellen Fenlason: He told me the name but (few words spoken by both women at the same time and canít be understood)

Jane Dudley: I wonder if Jack might know. You might ask him. Jack?

Ellen Fenlason: I think that I could find out from Mr. Fenlason because he seemed to know it quickly and he said that a lot of them had gone out of that area.

Jane Dudley: Could we get up to that well on Breakneck? This is very exciting to me.

Ellen Fenlason: When I saw in the paper that you were interested in a well, I remembered that in my notes I had seen a microfilm that this Ruben Tuttle Fenlason had died in an attempt to rescue Joel Gooch from a well, and thatís in your microfilm. Evidently that was so important that they put that in. So, when I went back over my records trying to decide about this, I discovered that it was another brother of Markís who had this - Ruben T. Now, Mark had a brother Wallace Fenlason, named after his father and grandparents way back. He married a Deborah Gooch in 1791 and she was a daughter of Ebenezer and Betsey Gooch, and they had three children and one of them, James Gooch Fenlason married a Jane Blyther in 1801 and they had a number of children. One of them was Ruben T. Now, all of the other children have dates when they were born, but after this Ruben T. there was died in Ď37, Ď38, whatever it was.

Jane Dudley: 18 - - -

Ellen Fenlason: No, Iím sorry. That was when he was probably born. He died August the tenth 1852. So, I presume that was the one that made the rescue. I checked the other Gooch families from the bicentennial edition that Machias put out and Deborah had a brother Joel. So, then I started looking things Wallace Fenlason had three children, James, and he had a son Ruben as well as another Wallace. Now, I checked the Ruben Fenlason family and he married a Deborah Gooch born in 1814, it listed his family, but then he evidently married a second time and there was a small child in the family. And, thereís no more record of this Ruben T. either. I also found that this second wife married the same year, in 1852 to another Fenlason, a James Fenlason. Now, Iím going back to check my microfilm and on the Joel Gooch to see when he died.

Jane Dudley: Ellen, you said you thought that he was a boy.

Ellen Fenlason: Yes, my first impression was from microfilm that it was a Ruben Tuttle, a son of James Fenlason who would be a grandson - must be Mark - uh Freemanís nephew as far as I could - - -

Jane Dudley: Freemanís nephew.

Ellen Fenlason: It was Freemanís nephew that I think - - -

Jane Dudley: Weíre back to Freeman.

Ellen Fenlason: But if it wasnít Freemanís nephew, it had to be Freemanís uncle, and Iím going to check that out before I say - - -

Jane Dudley: Well, if it were Freemanís uncle, he still was 14 when he died.

Ellen Fenlason: No, the uncle, the uncle would not be.

Jane Dudley: He would not be.

Ellen Fenlason: But, just looking at the fact that this man didnít show up on the next census, unless he moved away.

(Tape stops and starts again.)

Jack Dudley: This is Jack Dudley talking. At the meetings of the Alexander Historical Society the question of the story of the drowning that took place in a well on Breakneck back 150 years or so ago was discussed a number of times. Various people gave different accounts as they had been handed down over the many years. Harold and Ellen Fenlason of Danforth, Maine did some research on this matter. The following account which I am about to read was found by Mr. and Mrs. Fenlason. This article comes from the Calais Advertiser. The date is August 12, 1852. I will now read the article. ďFatal occurrence from inhaling noxious vapor in a well. On Tuesday last an inquest was held by coroner, D. K. Chase upon view of the bodies of John S. Philips, Joel Gooch, and R. T. Fenlason of Alexander which were taken lifeless from the bottom of the well near the dwelling of Mr. Philips. We are indebted to the coroner for the following statement which is the substance of the testimony taken at the inquest. On Monday the 9th, instant, Mr. Philips had the water all bailed out of his well which was about 30 feet deep and had not been used for a year or more, and he went down into the well and cleaned it and put fire to a handful of straw and threw it down to burn up, as he said, the unpleasant smell. On Tuesday morning he went down into the well to get a few pieces of boards which were left in the day before. When he had descended nearly to the bottom, his feet slipped from the rocks and he pitched forward and sunk down into a kind of sitting posture, his head and shoulders resting against the wall. His son, a lad about 12 years old who had watched his father, ran to the house and told his mother that there was trouble with his father in the well. Mrs. P., knowing that Mr. P. had formerly been troubled with fits supposed he was then in one. She went in one direction and sent the boy in another for help. Mr. Joel Gooch, the nearest neighbor, arrived at the well first and went down to assist Mr. Philips. He reached the bottom, took hold of Mr. P., raised him up a little and spoke to him. He then looked up and hallooed to those looking down. Can you hear me? And, repeated the same three times, then uttered a faint groan and sank down powerless. Mr. John Gooch, brother of Joel, arrived next and immediately descended to help his brother. He took hold of him and spoke to him, but found he was just breathing his last, and feeling himself much exhausted, he made haste to get out, and his strength barely supported him until he reached the surface where he fell prostrate on the ground, and was for a time completely exhausted. Mr. Ruben T. Fenlason, nephew of Gooch, came to the spot soon after John had got out and though warned of the danger, he insisted on going down and taking the end of a long rope he went rapidly down stepping on the rocks on each side of the well, made the rope secure around his uncleís body and then began to falter, but was aroused by those at the mouth of the well, and he made an effort to ascend, but his strength failing him when about two thirds of the way up, he pitched forward and fell head downward to the bottom. No hope was now left of getting either of them out alive and no other attempt was made to go down into the well. The body of Gooch was drawn out by the rope which Fenlason had put around him and a grapple was made of an old pitch fork with which the bodies were laid out. A lighted candle was lowered down the well and would burn dimly seven feet down but would go out at nine feet. The jury was composed of John Springer, James S. Bush, Luke Stephenson, J. Stephenson, John Perkins, Robert L. Tyler, and their verdict was that the deceased came to their deaths by inhaling the gas or noxious vapor which had accumulated in the well. Each of the deceased had left a wife and children and many friends to mourn their loss.Ē Now, in the paper, the Calais Advertiser that came out the following week - - -

Jane Dudley: What was the date of that issue that you just read?

Jack Dudley: The one that I read, I gave it at the very beginning. August 12, 1852. The following week this appeared in the Advertiser, Calais Advertiser. ďIn the account we gave of the fatal occurrence in Alexander last week, it was stated that the water in the well had not been used for over a year which was not the fact, as it had been constantly used up to the time they undertook to clean it, and over 20 pailfuls of water had been taken out of it a few minutes before Mr. Philips went down into it.Ē Now, this account, which was the account of the coronerís jury and inquest held at that time back in August of 1852 obviously would be a true account of what happened there.

Jane Dudley: Thank you, Jack.