Farmhouse History - Updated Information!
If you have been following these journal entries, you'll know that we've been reconstructing the history of the Farmhouse - when it was built, who lived there, and what they did. The more we work on it, the clearer the history becomes. Since this Journal Entry first appeared on November 27, 1999, we have been able to add more information to history of the Farmhouse. I was able to spend a couple of days at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City just before Christmas, and on the Monday after Christmas Penny and I went to the Maine State Archives in Augusta. The new information builds on the information that we had previously gleaned from property deeds from the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, tax records from the Sebago Town Clerk, U.S. Census Records going back to 1800, the Maine Historical Society in Portland, the Spaulding Library in Sebago, another visit to the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City last May, and anecdotal information from people who knew about the house.
When you put all the pieces together, they tell a very interesting story about the John Meserve Farm and the three generations of Meserves, two generations of Chesseys and others who have lived there over the last 170 years.
Three Generations of Meserves
We believe that Samuel Meserve (Jr.) built the Farmhouse about 1830. Three generations of Meserves lived there, for 100 years, until Samuel's grandson, Fred L. Meserve sold the Farmhouse in 1930 to his sister-in-law and her husband.
Samuel Meserve (Jr.) was a son of Samuel Small Meserve (Sr.) (born Dec 3, 1772 - died Oct 20, 1852) and Elizabeth McDaniel (or McDonald) Meserve (born Aug 10, 1775 - died 1842). Samuel and Elizabeth lived in Scarborough, and had five children there. Two of the sons, John Meserve (born Sept 27, 1799 - died June 20, 1868 and Samuel Meserve (Jr.) (born Apr 3, 1804 - died Feb 13, 1875) moved to Sebago soon after it was incorporated as a separate town from Baldwin, Maine, in 1826.
Both Samuel (Jr.) and his brother John lived at home in Limington with their parents until the mid-1800's. John Meserve got married on July 13, 1826 (Jane Libby Meserve, born May 1, 1797 - died June 10, 1891), and settled in the Hogfat Hill area of Sebago. John and Jane were listed in the 1830 U.S. Census for Sebago. Samuel (Jr.) was not counted in the 1830 Census at his parent's home in Limington, but does not appear in the Sebago census either.
Samuel Meserve (Jr.) got married on April 2, 1829 at age 25, and was first listed in the 1840 Sebago census, with his wife Elzira Cousins Meserve (born Apr 27, 1807 - died May 14, 1862), sons Richard F. (born Jan 13, 1831 - died Feb 8, 1902), Abram Cousins (born Nov 18, 1833 - died Nov 11, 1910), and John 2nd (born Sept 10, 1839 - died July 10, 1917). We have not located the original deed when Samuel (Jr.) bought the land where the Farmhouse now stands, but we know that he was active in acquiring land (Two parcels in Lot 7, Range 1 from Albert H. Sanborn on June 23, 1870, the south half of Lot 7, Range 2 (the 65 acre Elder Tyler Farm) on May 7, 1870 from Oliver. D. Pike, a 10 acre portion of Lot 7, Range 1, from Ira H. Healey on Oct 8, 1878, and all of Lot 7, Range 2 from Albert H. Sanborn on May 31, 1888), nearly all of it adjoining the Farmhouse parcel.
Samuel Meserve (Jr)'s lived until 1875, but in the 1870 Census, his son John 2nd, is listed as the head of the household. John apparently inherited the Farmhouse and much of the land holdings from his father. In the 1870 census John was listed at 30 years old with wife Matilda A. Douglass Meserve (born Nov 1841 - died 1922, married John on May 6, 1866) and son Freddie (born Mar 5, 1869 - died Dec 10, 1950). The farm was valued at $1,200, plus $325 in personal property. John was a farmer, but also was a shoemaker, operating a cottage industry from the Farmhouse. We speculate that John did some modernizing on the Farmhouse, installing a wood furnace in the cellar, moving and broadening the stairs, and installing the curved walls in the living room and bedroom (see "Curious Curved Walls"). This all may have been done for Matilda sometime in the late-1860s through 1880's.
John Meserve was a veteran of the Civil War. He enlisted on Sept 10, 1862 and served in Company K, 25th Maine Infantry until mustered out on July 10, 1863. He then re-enlisted on Dec 29, 1863 and served in Company I, 30th Maine Infantry, until being mustered out in Savannah, GA on Aug 20, 1865. He achieved the rank of Corporal, and was wounded on April 23, 1864. The 30th Maine saw service in New Orleans and Georgia. In the veterans' records, he is listed as 5' 9 1/2" tall, with hazel eyes, black hair and a dark complexion.
On the 1871 map of Sebago, the Farmhouse is shown as the "J. Meserve" place, and on deeds after this date it is listed as "the John Meserve Farm". John Meserve was listed in the tax records at the Sebago Town Offices from at least 1892 (earlier records were destroyed in a fire) until his death in 1917. He was shown as the owner of 80 acres, buildings and various horses, cows, oxen and sheep; thereafter the property and the Farmhouse pass to his son Fred L. Meserve.
Fred L. Meserve lived at the farm with his parents, and brought his new wife, Edith L. Ward Meserve (born Feb 1877) into the home after they were married on December 1, 1894. Fred and Edith had three children - Harry D. Meserve (born Mar 1895 - died July 27, 1961), Roy O. Meserve (born July 10, 1898 - died Sept 18, 1974), and Helen M. Meserve (born Aug 14, 1902).
Fred was a carpenter, as were his two sons Harry and Roy. We believe that the kitchen ell and the Batroom were added to the house about 1889 by Fred. Fred's father, John Meserve, died in 1917. After Fred and Edith divorced on June 19, 1919, Fred continued to live at the Farmhouse with his mother, Matilda. She died in 1922. We speculate that Fred installed the "new" wall in the living room around 1919 - that would have made perfect, New England sense - "why heat the whole house for just two people?". However, it also obscured the curved wall in the living room, one of the most unique features of the Farmhouse (see "Curious Curved Walls").
Fred was active in town affairs - he was Sebago's tax collector off-and-on for 21 years between 1896 and 1930. He was town constable for 13 years, between 1895 and 1925, and the town road commissioner for three years (1904, 1917, 1920). Fred was Sebago's first historian, and played a key role on the 1926 Centennial Committee. He also was a member of the Maple Grove Grange #148 for more than 25 years, a Mason, and active in the local church. He was Sebago's representative to the state legislature in 1937. Fred is described as a tall man with a long beard, who often wore long coats, and who had Maine "coon" cats.
In 1920 he is listed in the town tax records as owning 1 horse, 1 dog, 4 cows, and a brand new automobile - Fred's first! Fred remarried on January 29, 1924 to Lillian A. Poor Meserve, a neighbor up the road whose father had been the local lawyer, Edwin L. Poor. Lillian was the enumerator for the 1910 U.S. Census for Sebago.
Two Generations of Chesseys
In 1930, Fred sold the Farmhouse to Ephraim and Lunetta Poor Chessey, who were Fred's sister-in-law and her husband. Fred and Lillian then moved down the road into the old law office building of Lillian's father. They operated a store there for many years.
Ephraim George Chessey (born Oct 29, 1880 - died Dec 6, 1955) was a logger and farmer, and also cut hair on the front porch of the Farmhouse. When we were working on the front siding, we found license plates from 1930 embedded in the cement steps that used to lead up to the barbershop door - the year that Ephraim and Lunetta bought the Farmhouse.
Lunetta was Lillian's twin sister. Lunetta M. Poor Chessey (born Aug 29, 1872 - died Dec 22, 1955, married Ephraim Jan 3, 1912) was a school teacher in the local school district, teaching for many years at the Hillside Schoolhouse a couple of miles up the road. The Hillside Schoolhouse was built in 1836 and closed in 1930. Lunetta taught there from at least 1926 until it closed in 1930. One of her pupils there was her son, George Jr. Chessey (see "Frost Heaves and Pussy Willows")
For the 1926 Centennial Celebration, Lunetta wrote and recited a commemorative poem that contains the lines "Sebago, dear Sebago, Fairest of lands thou art...". She also wrote a town song for the occasion.
Ephraim and Lunetta's son, George Jr., was in the U.S. Navy before and during World War II. George Jr. (born Apr 2, 1914 - died Feb 13,2000) lived his youth at the Farmhouse. However, once he entered the Navy prior to WWII, he and his family lived in Portland - not at the Farmhouse. Neither his wife Sylvia M. Douglass Meserve (born June 10, 1917 - died Feb 3, 1999), nor any of their four children, ever lived at the Farmhouse.
In later years, Ephraim and Lunetta moved to Portland themselves, and the Farmhouse was rented out. It also sat vacant for about five years from about 1944 to 1947, and 1955, just before Richard and Dot Howard bought the place in 1956 and moved in.
170 Years of Farmhouse History
The Farmhouse had been owned by only four families until we bought it. Here is the record of Farmhouse owners that we've now been able to piece together - it is a statement to the solidness of the house, and the character of the community that essentially only three families owned the house for nearly all of the time since it was built:
Although the trail of property deeds still has some holes in it, and the early town tax records have gaps because of a fire years ago, I am fairly comfortable that the early owners of the Farmhouse have now been documented. Now that we've been able to fill the dates, names and relations for the Farmhouse, we're going to try and "put a little meat on the bones of history".
Samuel and his brother John were early Sebago settlers, and the names of prominent businessmen appear on the deeds that the Meserves bought and sold property with. John Meserve was a Civil War veteran, and acquired a number of parcels of property around the Farmhouse. Fred L. Meserve and his second wife Lillian were active with town affairs. Ephraim Chessey was a logger, and was a barber on the side. Lunetta was a local school teacher. Richard Howard was a logger, and hauled logs in his own trucks. He was active on the local volunteer fire department, and was a Mason. Dot is a school teacher, and has a thriving blueberry/fruit/vegetable/flower business during the summer. Ed is an investment advisor, and juggles several other businesses at the same time.
Although we are still not able to determine the exact date when the Farmhouse was built, we can now get pretty close. We know when Samuel left his family's home in Limington to seek his fortune. From the ages of his children and marriage dates, it is probably safe to assume that the house was built by Samuel (Jr.) and Elzira Meserve sometime after the May 1830 Census was taken. Samuel would have been 25 years old at the time. In the 1840 census he had a well established home and family. An 1830 construction for the Farmhouse also fits with the style and layout of the house compared to others of the period.
The kitchen/Batroom ell were added to the house around 1889, probably by Fred L. Meserve. Dot recounts that when her dad was doing some remodeling in the kitchen he found written on a beam "Snowstorm - 1889".
We are now able to put some names on the events that have taken place in the Farmhouse - from the clues we've been finding around the place. For example, there are pencil notations on the beams above the old soap kettle under the kitchen that say: "April 19, 1900 soap", "May 14, 1906 Cold making soap". "Haven't [done] anything in the [ground] got....", "June 17 it is raining hard, making soap 1915". These were made by John, Matilda, son Freddie or daughter-in-law Edith.
In cleaning out the batroom (see "The Batroom" in "Maine - The Way Life Should Be"), tucked up behind a rafter, I found a copy of the 1897 "Agriculture of Maine" yearbook filled with pasted-in pictures from magazines, and the initials "HMM". This was done by Helen M. Meserve when she was a young girl. Helen, born 1903, was the daughter of Fred L. and Edith Meserve.
The unique curved walls in the living room and the upstairs bedroom were probably done by John sometime in the period late-1860 through the 1800's, as part of other major renovations.
Help us fill in the gaps!
Well, here's the update on the Farmhouse and where we are. We feel much comfortable with the place, knowing who has been here before us. We will continue to work on filling in the gaps, and learning more about the Farmhouse and those who have lived here in the past. The more we learn about the place, the better terms we will have with it. If anyone has any additional insights or background, please let us know as we fill in the picture..
Allen and Penny Crabtree
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Last updated March 4, 2000