AGRICULTURE

THE HIRED MAN

SOMETIMES HE WAS A STRANGER; SOMETIMES HE WAS THE NEIGHBOR’S SON

SOMETIMES HE BECAME PART OF THE COMMUNITY; SOMETIMES HE DISAPPEARED

AND SOMETIMES SHE WAS THE HIRED GIRL

What got me started on this article? One sunny Saturday in July Ceil Sullivan Kirby came by the house with this picture of Tom Tobin. That evening I looked up Tom in the census records. I thought about the other single men who had been hired men and realized they were part of the story about agriculture that we have been publishing. Tom Tobin will be described in a later issue.

How was this article researched? I used the census records of Alexander, Crawford and Cooper as copied by Sharon Howland. I also checked census records in Princeton, Baileyville, Baring and Meddybemps. I looked at the people who didn’t belong in each family. Some were the sons and daughters of neighbors. I chose not to research them because they were part of their own community, just working out for a few years. Some, like Tom Tobin, were strangers, single men with no known family connections to the area. I created lists of men and women that will be the core of the article. I used the censuses for 1850, ‘60, ‘70 and ‘80. The 1840 census lists only the head of each household. No census record exists for 1890.

Why a hired man? Creating a farm out of wilderness was physically demanding. Making a subsistence farm into a moneymaker was hard work. Some farmers were not strong enough or too old to do all the work alone. Some farmers had no sons or their sons had moved away. So help was hired. Some farmers figured that the farm would become successful faster with extra help. So help was hired. Or maybe the help just showed up at the door, looking for a meal and offering to work in return. So help was hired.

Let’s look at what we know of these who were strangers. Remember that spelling was not standard because some of these men could not read or write.

ALEXANDER - 1850

Orrington Baker, 28, was a laborer born in Maine. He lived with Samuel and Dorcas Brown and family, eleven people in all. Their home was at the top of Taylor Hill on the South Princeton Road. He is not found on area 1860 census records, although a Cyrus Baker family lived in Baileyville.

John Doughity, 17, was a laborer born in New Brunswick. He lived with Andrew Crackin, 24, who also was born in New Brunswick and was single. Andrew was not listed as a farmer on the 1850 agricultural census. Both disappeared before 1860.

Robert Ellis, 48, was born in Ireland. He was in Almeda Townsend’s household. Almeda, widow of Manly, had a prosperous farm that depended on lots of hired hands, as we will see. Robert does not appear in the 1860 census. He does not appear connected to the Ellis family that showed up in Cooper by 1860. Almeda’s farm was on Townsend Hill, across from the Grange Hall.

Jane Fitzsimmons, 14, was born in Ireland. Jane was living in the home of John Crowley. The Crowleys were also Irish as were two men also residing with them. Jane does not appear single or married in Alexander, Cooper or Crawford in the 1860 census.

Mathew Frane, 21, was a laborer who lived with and worked for Jesse Stephenson. Jesse had the sawmill and gristmill at the foot of Pleasant Lake. Mathew is listed on just this one local census.

James Foley, 40, was a laborer who was born in Ireland. He resided with John Crowley and Biddy (Bridget) Crowley up on Breakneck. Crowley was establishing a farm. The 1860 census lists James Foley with his wife Joanna, 40, and three children, Margaret and Michael, 21, and Thomas, 16. This Foley family was living with John Crowley. It is possible that the James who was here in 1850 was a Finley or a Forley

Edward Jamison, 15, was a laborer living with The Stephen Billings family on the north (Princeton) line. We will meet him again in 1860 and he is the same Edward Jamison listed with a family on the 1880 Princeton census. There is an Alice Jamieson listed in the 1850 census of Crawford. Were they related?

John MaGee, 35, was an Irish born laborer who was also living with John Crowley. By 1860 John was married to a Margaret and living in Cooper. Was he the owner of McGee’s mill in the northwest corner of Cooper?

Archibald McCatherine, 26, was a laborer born in Nova Scotia. He was living with Solomon Strout at the Four Corners. He disappeared by 1860. Also, at Strout’s house was neighbor Jones Bohanon.

John Mills, 40, was in the Isaac Porter Crafts household. John was born in Maine and does not appear in any subsequent area census record.

Catherine O’Brien, 18, was born in Ireland. She was in Almeda Townsend’s home. Catherine does not appear either as married or single in any area census. A John O’Brien family was in Baileyville in 1860, but his birth is listed as New Brunswick.

Frederic Pilky, 39, was a laborer born in Maine. He lived with and worked for Samuel Cottle. On June 22, 1847, Manly Townsend deeded lot 60 to Frederic Pilchy ‘with privileges and appurtenances.’ Townsend held the mortgage. Lot 60 includes today the Alexander Cemetery. Bert Varnum told me that there was a cellar on his family cemetery lot until they filled it in the 1950s. Today one can find a cellar and another depression on a nubile in the middle of Wapsconhagan Stream wetlands just a few feet north of the Airline. Little is known of Frederic including the proper spelling of his family name. Charles Frost, a neighbor’s 17-year-old son, was also in the Cottle home in 1850.

CRAWFORD – 1850 No strangers were found as hired men.

COOPER – 1850 Just one stranger found here.

John Buck, 24, was a laborer born in some unknown place. He was part of the Hiram Munson household on West Ridge. John disappeared from the area by 1860, although he may have been a brother to Vermont born Horace and Silas Buck who lived in Princeton in 1860. In 1916 George L. Flood of Alexander married Mary Buck of Searsport. They lived in Cooper

Did having a hired man help make the farmer more prosperous? Compare the farmers listed here to their names on agricultural censuses and let me know the results. Next time we’ll look at hired men in 1860 and 1870.