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Crabtree Family Reunion - 2000

September 30, 2000

Fourth Reunion

Howard and Marilyn Aldrich thought that it would be fun to have a gathering of the ancestors of Captain Agreen Crabtree and the other early Crabtrees who lived in the Hancock/Sullivan/Frenchman's Bay area of Maine. They have now arranged four of these reunions, including this year's event held on September 30, 2000. We had attended our first one in Hancock last year (See Crabtree family reunion for the Journal Entry on last year's reunion.).

We were saddened to hear when Howard died in January 2000, but Marilyn continued making the arrangements for this year's reunion - she felt that Howard would have wanted it that way.

Marilyn sent me an e-mail just before the reunion, and said that she was not going to be able to attend. However, she had left things in good hands with cousins Hugh, Ruth and Barbara. The Holiday Inn in Ellsworth was booked, with a meeting room to swap yarns and lies, and a separate room for our buffet luncheon.

We met the Hancock historian and cousin Lois Crabtree Johnson at the Holiday Inn a little early. She was laying out her scrapbooks of Crabtree ancestor+s, clippings and photographs. Other relations started to gather around 11:00 am, and by the time lunch was announced at noon there were 34 Crabtree relations assembled.

I am the 10th generation Crabtree in America, in the line from John Crabtree who emigrated from near Manchester, England, to Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600's. John was a joyner (or joiner), a skilled carpenter who built houses and furniture. He is first mentioned in Colonial records on February 19, 1637/38 in Boston where he was allowed "a lot on the Mount for two heads". Here is how my Crabtree family line for 11 generations looks:

Eleven Crabtree Generations In America
Generation 1 -
John Crabtree, Boston, MA (ca 1616 - late 1656)
Generation 2 -
John Crabtree II, Swansea, Attleborough, and Rehoboth, MA (1639 - ca 1715)
Generation 3 -
Benjamin Crabtree, Attleboro, MA (1673 - 1736)
Generation 4 -
Benjamin Crabtree II, Attleboro, MA (1703 - 1763)
Generation 5 -
Agreen Crabtree, Hancock, ME (1739 - 1808)
Generation 6 -
George Crabtree Sr., Hancock, ME (1771 - 1862)
Generation 7 -
John Dyer Crabtree, Bangor, ME (1805 - 1881)
Generation 8 -
Allen Frederick Crabtree, Sr, Bangor, ME and Cambridge, MA (1861 - 1924)
Generation 9 -
Allen Frederick Crabtree, Jr, Effingham and Hudson, NH (1906 - 1980)
Generation 10 -
Allen Frederick Crabtree III, lots of places in NH, TX, CO, NE, CA, ME,... (1941 - not yet)
Generation 11 -
Allen Frederick Crabtree IV, Sebastian, FL (1965 - not yet)
James Ian Crabtree, Wells, ME (1968 - not yet)

At the luncheon Lois gave a report on some new genealogical information that our cousin William Crabtree has discovered on our first New England ancestors. He has found more information on 2nd generation John Crabtree II (1639 - ca 1715) who lived in Attleborough and Rehoboth, MA.

Following his death, an inventory set the value of John's estate in Attleborough at 363 pounds 1 shilling, including "..home stead housing and land together with other out lands" at 260 pounds, "..corn and other provisions" at 19 pounds 10 shillings, "...chattle, sheep and swine" at 24 pounds 5 shillings, "...arms" at 2 pounds, and other items. John was survived by his widow Hannah.

John's son Benjamin Crabtree (3rd generation, 1673 - 1736) lived in Attleborough, MA. William has uncovered his Last Will and Testament, made on November 23, 1736. It includes some interesting provisions to provide for his wife Elizabeth following his death, including:

"...I give unto my beloved wife Elizabeth the use and improvement of all my land liing on the south side of the Contary Road that leadeth over Blackstone River: so called with the one half of my Barn standing their on: I like wise give to my sd wife the west end of my house and the west half of my orchard near or ajoyning ..... on the north side as sd Contary Road: I like wise give to my sd wife all my personall Estate except one yoak of oxen one horse four cowse and two swine and by her freely to be improved and enjoyed during the term of her natural life: All which I give as above sd in leiu of dower: and hear by do constituit my sd wife sole excutrix of this my last will and testament..."

To his son Benjamin Crabtree II (4th generation - 1703 - 1763) he willed the remaining half of his farm. This arrangement of dividing the property was apparently not uncommon in those times, and provided for the care and maintenance of widows and others who would have little or no means of earning a living.

An inventory of Benjamin Sr's estate when he died in 1736 was substantial; the estate was valued at 1,247 pounds, 10 shillings and 3 pence. The inventory noted that it was priced after the rate of 27 shillings for one ouce of silver. Included in the inventory along with livestock, household furniture, foodstuffs and clothes, was "...a Negro man" valued at 100 pounds. Contrary to current common knowledge, slavery was not confined to the southern US - there were slaves in most of the northern colonies as well in the 1700's.

The Missing Graveyard

The caption on the photo read "Can you locate the graveyard in this photo?" Cousin Greg from Falmouth has been doing research on our ancestors in the Portland area, and has been trying to locate the final resting place of Captain William Crabtree (6th generation, 1760 - 1843). William was the second son of Captain Agreen Crabtree of Hancock, and my ancestor George's older brother.

William was a successful merchant and shipowner in Portland. Since 1797 he had lived in Portland with a home on Congress Street near India Street, and he owned a wharf and warehouse near the foot of India Street. In the 1830 maps of Portland, Crabtree's Wharf is shown; it was just north of the current Casco Bay Ferry Terminal.

With war clouds gathering, in 1810 William joined with 26 other merchants and ship owners to build and outfit the Rapid, a 190-ton heavily timbered brig, armed with 15 cannon and carrying a crew of 100 men. The Rapid was commissioned on August 1, 1812 as an American Privateer in the War of 1812.

William was appointed Captain of the Rapid, and under his leadership she took four ships - the "Experience" with a cargo of $250,000, the 8-gun brig "St. Andrews", another brig, and a one-gun schooner. Following this first cruise, William retired (52 years old) according to one story. According to another story, the merchants' committee replaced him with his nephew Joseph Weeks, who had boasted that Crabtree was timid and that he, Weeks, would be more bold and capture more prizes.

In any event, Crabtree returned to his Portland business and Weeks took the Rapid out on her second cruise. Soon thereafter, when the Rapid was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Weeks ran into more than he had bargained for. When the fog lifted at daylight the Rapid found herself within four miles of two British frigates. After a running fight of 11-hours, during which the Rapid cut away its boats, anchors, and may have jettisoned cannon, she was overtaken by the British and forced to surrender. Most of the Rapid's crew spent the rest of the war in Dartmoor Prison where many of them died.

William continued in Portland as shipmaster and merchant for 15 years or more. He retired to a farm in West Falmouth where he died in 1843. Lois Johnson had never been able to find where William was buried, nor his second wife Hannah Bagley (1777-1862). She asked Greg to see what he could track down about this loose end to help fill in the Crabtree story better.

Greg looked through town records and the records of the Maine Old Cemetery Association (MOCA) at the Maine Historical Society in Portland. He found a listing for the Crabtree-Hobbs Cemetery in Falmouth. The records of gravestones showed that William (d. 1843 at 83 years), his second wife Hannah (d. 1862 at 85 years), daughter Sarah (d. 1873 at 85 years) and son John L. (d 1856 at 36 years) were buried there, along with three members of the Hobbs family. The last of the seven to be buried there was Sarah in 1873.

Can you locate the
graveyard in this photo?

On the old MOCA maps (MOCA, Cumberland County, Series 2, Pg Cum 2-257), the Crabtree-Hobbs Cemetery was located near Leighton's Crossing, next to Cobbs Lane in West Falmouth. Leighton Road is a short road, located between Brook Road and Auburn Street. However, when Greg drove up and down the road there was no sign of a graveyard anywhere. He began to suspect that the graveyard had been moved when the Maine Turnpike was built a few years earlier.

Finally, he talked to one of the homeowners on the road, who directed him to a small house midway along the road. He knocked on the door, and an elderly lady said that, yes, she knew exactly where the cemetery was located - her house had been built over it in the 1930's! The house was built on pilings, so probably the old graves were not disturbed. Greg speculates that this was the only way that a house could be built on such a small lot. Maine law as regards private cemeteries is a bit loose, so such construction could go on within the definition of the law.

The old lady has now sold her home to an individual in Casco. Greg is endeavoring to inform him of the existence of the old cemetery on his property, and to obtain permission for us to at least inventory the gravesite. The things that you run into in tracking down your ancestors!

Autumn in DownEast Maine

"Here, this is for you - isn't it pretty? Penny asked.

She laid a tiny maple leaf on the pillow. The leaf was a bright red, a sure sign that autumn was upon us. Penny had just returned from taking Happy on his after-breakfast walk, while I had stayed behind to catch a couple of additional winks.

Autumn was just getting started in Downeast Maine, and we were up in Hancock for the Fourth Annual Crabtree Family Reunion. The trees were starting to turn colors, and the weekend was crisp and bright - beautiful fall weather for the reunion.

We met my cousin Allen F. Crabtree and his wife Donna for breakfast downstairs. Donna had received my e-mail about the reunion, and they had driven up from Saugus, Massachusetts, to join us at the Crocker House on Hancock Point. Allen is my Uncle Charlie's son, and we hadn't spent any time together for far too many years. I was tickled that they could join us.

We talked about our kids, and what we had been doing in our own lives. Then we started talking about the reunion that was going to take place later that day in Ellsworth.

The Crocker House Country Inn

Penny and I first stumbled across the Crocker House in the fall of 1981. At the time, we were living in Michigan. We had come to Hancock because I had read in an article about Captain Agreen Crabtree that he had settled on Hancock Point before the American Revolution. I had just turned off Route 1 down Hancock Point Road at the town park, when I spotted the sign. Crocker House Inn - 4 miles.

"Let's go see what that is - we need a place to stay tonight", she said.

Hancock Point Road winds through spruce and fir woods, interspersed with neat farmhouses and fields, heading for Frenchman's Bay. Just as we had about run out of land, we came upon a large shingled inn set back from the road. We pulled in and were met by the owner, Richard Malaby, who gave us a room for the night. The rooms were delightful, and the food was gourmet.

The Crocker House Country Inn
on Hancock Point

Rich had purchased the Inn the spring of 1980, and it was only open from May through October the first few years. In the winter he closed things up, and went back to Michigan to continue his culinary studies at Michigan State University. As I was an alumnus of MSU, living at that time only about 1/2 hour west of campus, I thought that this was a neat coincidence.

Over the years, we've tried to stay at the Crocker House whenever we visit the Hancock area. We've stayed with Rich through his renovations and expansions for nearly every fall until we moved to California in 1991. Our old dog, Buffalo, even stayed there in 1985 on one visit (Dogs are allowed at the Inn). The hospitality is always wonderful, the atmosphere warm and friendly, and the food is wonderful.

The inn was built in 1886 by Jones and Harriett Kelley, who operated it as a boardinghouse. Kelley sold the property to Julius H. Crocker on September 30, 1901, who owned the property for twenty years. Josephine Kief bought the place in 1921, who sold it in 1928 to Isma Bryant, who sold it in 1948 to Guy Riegel. The Inn went to Dezso Szabo in 1969, who sold it to William Moise and a group of his friends in 1976. In 1980 Richard Malaby, the current owner bought the Crocker House Inn.

The inn was one of several that served the tourists arriving on the Maine Central Railroad headed for Bar Harbor. At that time, the principal way to get to Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor was by the Hancock-Bar Harbor Ferry. By the early 1920's, nearly 10,000 visitors travelled through Hancock Point enroute to Bar Harbor at the height of the season. There were 70 restaurants and 55 inns on the point, including the Crocker House.

The depression of 1929, as well as a CCC-built auto bridge to Mount Desert Island, changed Hancock Point's tourist business forever. Hotels and restaurants closed, and Hancock Point slumbered. Only the Crocker House remained of all the hotels and boarding houses on the Point.

Baroness Olga Lanoff
in 1934

One of the most colorful characters associated with the Inn was Guy Riegel's wife Olga. While Olga Riegel was at the Inn she called herself Baroness Olga Lanoff, from an earlier marriage to Baron Carl Lanoff of Argentina. A dancer, entertainer and entrepeneur, Baroness Olga operated the Crocker House summers and spent her winters in Palm Beach.

In every room in the Inn today is a large box of Bol Yerba tea leaves from the Baroness' plantations in Argentina. This was touted as a healthful and beneficial drink for the entire family. Reading the claims on the box, it makes you wonder if it is tea, or some other South American leaf that can restore your vitality, calm your nerves, and invigorate your entire body. Sounds like Moxie in a tea cup! A half-pound package of Bol Yerba sold for sixty cents, or a pound package for one dollar, including postage and handling from her headquarters in Philadelphia.

Stories tell of the Baroness dancing for her dinner guests at the Inn, and the notable friends of hers who visited. The Baroness is long gone from the Crocker House, but her ghost has been seen by both staff and guests since Rich reopened the Inn in 1980. We have never come across her, but others swear that they have seen her in the halls and rooms of the old Inn.

Lois, Hugh and Ruth joined Penny, Allen, Donna and I for dinner Saturday night at the Crocker House. Rich, as usual, put on a wonderful feed. I had the best duck I'd had in quite a while, and everyone else was very pleased with their choices. Ruth ordered a wonderful-looking rack of lamb, one of my favorites - so many choices, but only one at a time! After dinner, when the waiter was clearing our dishes, Lois then talked a rather suprised waiter into bagging up the bones from the rack of lamb so that she could bring them home to feed her wild racoon visitors. She said that "the raccoons thought heaven had arrived when I gave them the lamb bones!"

Searching for Agreen's Fort - II

At the last year's reunion we were unsuccessful in locating Captain Agreen's trading post/fort down on the Skillings River, west of Hancock Point (See Crabtree family reunion ). This year, armed with aerial photographs and more information from Greg, who had been there, we made a second expedition.

Aerial view of Old Point,
Skillings River and Hills Island
Photo compliments of
Friends of Taunton Bay

We timed our trek so that we would get to the river at low tide. Last year we had trouble working around the point because of the high water conditions at high tide. Ten of us from the reunion gathered at Maynard Foss's farm at 9:00 am Sunday morning, and walked down through his fields to the river. I had dropped by the day before and he readily gave our little expedition his permission.

The tide was completely out, and we had no problem working our way through the salt grass and rocks around the point. It was a bright, crisp day - hardly a cloud in the sky - just perfect weather! Lots of interesting drift wood, red jellyfish on the rocks, small crabs, and even an old lobster box that had drifted ashore among the rocks. Donna claimed this as a souvenir, so Allen and I carried it back to the car on our return trip.

A group of us looking
for Captain Agreen's fort

We reached the point where Greg had said he had found piles of stones and parts of a stone wall that he thought were the remnants of the fort. Agreen also had a saw mill between the pont and a small island out in the river channel. With the tide at full ebb, we could see that there was enough of a difference between high and low tides to power a mill.

The stone wall was reportedly back from the point, running for some distance. The upland was thickly covered with spruce and balsam fir, with a few poplars as well. Once we broke through the dense growth at the edge, the group spread out looking for old piles of stones, anything that looked out of the ordinary. The trading post itself has certainly been long gone in the 240 years or so since it was built, but the stones would remain in piles and clumps.

Cousin Allen F. Crabtree
and the stone wall we found

We hadn't gone too far when one of the group stumbled across a pile of rocks that didn't look natural. We then discovered what was remaining of an old stone wall, running for some distance through the thick woods. The purpose of stone walls in early New England was to keep animals (domestic and wild) out of crops and stores (later to fence domestic animals in). A stone wall here was probably part of the enclosures at the trading post, where fish, furs and foodstuffs were stored. The uneven nature of the ground made it seem unlikely that this area was ever used for crops or pasture, so it is possible that this wall was part of Captain Agreen's facility - or at least we'd like to think so.

Next Year's Reunion - Date Set!

All in all, a fun time and a good chance to meet relations and swap yarns. In the process, we've been able to jointly fill in some of the gaps in the Crabtree family history. It is the stories and the details about our ancestors that help bring them to life for us - the "meat on the bones" so to speak. And, by learning a little bit about them, their lives, and what kind of people they were, we learn a little more about ourselves.

We have already reserved the Holiday Inn in Ellsworth for next year's Crabtree family reunion. It will be held on Saturday, September 22, 2001 - the first day of autumn. We hope to have a speaker or two at the luncheon to talk on one of our ancestors. If it can be arranged, we will make a boat trip around Hancock Point available on Sunday for anyone who would like to go. And, of course, everyone is encouraged to bring their photo albums and newspaper clippings of family and relations to share with the rest of the clan.

We'd like to see you attend next year - please drop me an e-mail for more information. A mailing will go out sometime early next year.

Allen and Penny Crabtree

Information on the Crocker House Inn came from:

McKinney, Catherine Walker. The Crocker House Ghost...and Other Information. Preview! August 13-20, 1993. Ellsworth, ME.

Phippen, Sandy. The Sun Never Sets on Hancock Point. Advance copy of the Crocker House Inn chapter, compliments of Lois Johnson. Publication planned for 2001.

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Last updated October 27, 2000

Copyright © 2000 by Allen Crabtree