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Crabtree Family 2003 Reunion

October 11, 2003

Topics In This Journal Entry:

[The Seventh Reunion] [The Privateer "Rapid"] [Maine Granite Industry Museum] [Our Next Reunion]

The Seventh Reunion

Once again the weather gods smiled on the annual fall gathering of the Crabtree clan in Hancock. The skies were blue, the weather crisp and the fall colors brilliant. Twenty descendents of Captain Agreen Crabtree met on Columbus Day weekend at Hancock Point for a picnic next to the river, swapping lies and stories at the Crocker House, sharing a bean supper at the Hancock Congregational Church, and seeing a demonstration in splitting granite at the Maine Granite Industry Museum.

The Hancock Town Hall and
a brilliant red maple

As we have done for several years, several of us stayed at Crocker House. The Crabtree clan pretty well filled up the rooms at the Crocker House, which offered us plenty of opportunities to meet and greet each other. Crocker House owner and chef, Richard Malaby, greeted us as we arrived. On Friday night several of us gathered there for dinner to go over plans for events on Saturday and Sunday.

Lois Johnson advising Emery Daly
as he updates his Crabtree Family database

We took over the sun room at the Crocker House available on Saturday morning and spread out our family history collections. My half-brother Emery has entered geneology data on the Crabtree family in his website and he brought his laptop to enter new information from the Crabtree relations. He also had large paper charts showing the lineage of the various branches descending from Agreen, complete with pictures he had taken at earlier reunions. Emery later let folks take the charts home with them if they wanted.

Lois Johnson talked about her newly published manuscript on the Crabtree family homes on Hancock Point. Last year Lois led a tour of some of the homes on the neck (see the writeup on the 2002 Reunion. I brought the clan up to speed on efforts to restore the Dobbs-Crabtree cemetery in Falmouth and showed slides borrowed from John Nelson of Maine Non-Intrusive (207-846-3103)about his surveys of the William Crabtree gravesite.

Captain Agreen's relatives gathered at this year's reunion

Rich Malaby making picnic lunches
at the Crocker House

At noon we car pooled to the Frenchman Bay Conservancy picnic area at the Sullivan-Hancock Tidal Falls on the Taunton River. There are picnic tables scattered around the grassy banks of the river, plus the Conservancy has a glassed-in pavilion with picnic tables to retreat into if it rained. It is a pretty spot, and an outdoor picnic outing was a break from our normal routine.

When I talked with Barbara Welch, the Executive Director of the Conservancy, she confirmed that the area is open to the public and the Crabtree clan was welcome to picnic there. She also asked that we not have a catered lunch. Apparently a wedding reception there a year earlier had involved a catered meal and some members of the public felt constrained from using the area while the event was going on. I agreed to work within their guidelines and thanked her for the Conservancy's hospitality. Later I sent the Conservancy a contribution as a token of our appreciation.

I had spoken to Richard Malaby several weeks before our reunion and told him the situation. He said "That shouldn't be a problem. When you get here come and see me and we'll work out the details." I wandered into the kitchen at the Crocker House and poured myself a cup of coffee. As Rich worked on dinner preparations we discussed the menus for our picnic.

Barbara Simpson with a hand-made quilt
for one of the doorprizes

"Rich" I said, "since we can bring our picnic lunches to the Conservancy area but you won't be able to cater it for us, what do you suggest?"

"I'll make up some sack lunches that people can bring with them from here, and can you bring along the drinks and the sheet cake in your car" he said. "Then people can help themselves. That will conform to the rules that the Conservancy have for using the area and people will still have a nice picnic."

Richard made a delicious lunch. The weather was perfect, and we took over nearly every picnic bench at the park. Later we gathered in the pavilion to have cake.

Barbara Simpson organized the door prizes again this year. This is always a hit, and there were several fine prizes. She led the group in drawing for door prizes. Emery and I each won an early map of Hancock Point. A coveted prize was a handmade quilt that Barbara is shown here displaying.

After our picnic many returned to the Crocker House to continue swapping yarns and looking at the displays of photo albums and family history items.

As we did last year, a group of Crabtree's ate supper at the Hancock Congregational Church's bean supper on Saturday night. Bean suppers are a common New England event (see Baked Bean Suppers), the food is good and plentiful, and the price is right.

Allen proved the master of this giant red dog at
the bean supper

The dessert table was groaning under the weight of pumpkin, apple, blueberry, custard and several other kinds of homemade pies, plus gingerbread with whipped cream. While the rest of us found seats at the long tables and started passing the bowls of beans, my cousin Adrienne went immediately to the dessert table to pick out her pie.

I have always admired cousin Adrienne for her independence. If she wants to have dessert first, then she does despite what we might have been told as children was acceptable behavior. If Adrienne wants more than one dessert, then a bean supper is the best place to indulge yourself. She is as thin as a bird despite how many pieces of pie she eats. I am envious and wish I had her metabolism. Since I don't, we arranged these photos to try and embarass her, but probably didn't!

Adrienne loves her desserts (before)

...and she ate them all! (after)

Ruth and Roberta play a spirited
game of Scrabble

After supper, we gathered back at the Crocker House to listen to Robin Leigh Kingsbury sing and play the piano in the parlor. Robin used to play piano and sing at the Rustic Barrel Restaurant in Sebago, and seeing her is also a chance for her to catch up on Sebago news and gossip.

"Would anyone like to play Scrabble?" asked Cousin Ruth Sutherland. She and her husband Hugh had made the name tags for the reunion again this year, and they had joined us at the Crocker House for an after-bean-supper drink. Ruth had brought along her own game and turned out to be quite a Scrabble pro. She certainly gave us all a run for our money. Through a couple of lucky breaks and questionable words that no one challenged, I was even able to beat her in one game.

The Privateer "Rapid"

You might remember my talking about the missing graveyard of one of our ancestors, Captain William Crabtree (see the Missing Graveyard in the 2000 Crabtree Reunion). Cousin Greg Poulos is still working on restoring the Hobbs-Crabtree graveyard in Falmouth, and I gave a short summary of the surveys that John Nelson had done to help locate the graves.

The 2000 reunion had a short history of William as a privateer in the War of 1812. When he still lived in Hancock William had served aboard his father Agreen's privateer in the Revolutionary War. After the Revolution he moved to Portland and made his fortune as a successful merchant and shipowner there. Because of his Portland reputation as well as his Revolutionary war experience, William was appointed captain of the Rapid, a 190-ton heavily timbered brig, armed with 15 cannon and carrying a crew of 100 men. The Rapid was was built in the Moulton shipyards in Portland, Maine in 1809 and commissioned on August 1, 1812 as an American Privateer in the War of 1812.

Under William's 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 several hours, during which the Rapid cut away its boats, anchors, and 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 an internment camp in Nova Scotia or at Dartmoor Prison in England. Records show that Seaman David Bryant died on November 23, 1812 at the British Internment Camp at Halifax, Nova Scotia. No names of seaman from the Rapid are listed among the 271 American prisoners of war who died at Dartmoor Prison.

There the story of the Rapid ended, or so I thought. I was delighted to receive an e-mail a few weeks after the reunion from George A. Webster from St. Andrews, Scotland. He wrote:

"Dear Mr. Crabtree,

I was extremely interested to read your Maine Farmhouse Journal family webpage for September 2002, with the story of Captain William Crabtree and the American privateer 'Rapid' out of Portland, Maine. I have been searching for information on this vessel prior to her capture by the Royal Navy. I am very familiar with her story AFTER her capture, as I have by inheritance the papers and log books of the Captain assigned to her by the Royal Navy. Her career with the Royal Navy is an interesting one - including a role in one of the great events of history, the exile of the Emperor Napoleon to St. Helena. I thought you might like to know the subsequent fate of your ancestor's vessel after her capture by the Royal Navy.

As you know, the 'Rapid' was commissioned as an American privateer on August 1, 1812, and captured by the British just 11 weeks later, whilst under Joseph Weeks' command. On the afternoon of 17 October, on the St. George's Bank some 250 miles south of Nova Scotia, the frigate HMS 'Maidstone', with HMS 'Spartan' in company, captured the American privateer brig 'Rapid'. She had been armed with twelve carronades of various sizes and two long sixes but eight of the guns were thrown overboard during the nine hour chase. With a crew of 84 men she was three days out of Portland and had been provisioned for a three month's cruise off the Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde Is., Cayenne and Bermuda.

At first the Royal Navy renamed the capture 'Rapid' as the 'Nova Scotia', but after the loss of the Royal Naval vessel 'Ferret' near Leith in January 1813, the former 'Rapid' was given the name 'Ferret'. As such she was commissioned into the Channel Fleet in June 1813 under Captain William Ramsden.

When the Treaty of Paris and Napoeon's first exile to Elba brought the Napoleonic Wars to a close in May 1814, the 'Ferret' along with many other vessels in the Royal Navy was decommissioned as surplus to requirement.However, following Napoleon's escape from Elba and landing in France in March 1815, the 'Ferret' was recommissioned in June 1815 under Captain James Stirling (whose papers, log books, sword, hat and paintings I have by inheritance), and once again assigned to the Channel Fleet.

On July 18th 1815, the 'Ferret' formed part of a squadron which fought the last Naval action of the Napoleonic Wars, involving a combined land-sea attack upon the Breton harbour of Courgiou, and the capture of a French convoy therein. Meanwhile, Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo, and surrendered aboard the Royal Naval vessel 'Bellerophon', which took him to off the coast of England where he was transferred to HMS 'Northumberland' for transportation to exile at St. Helena. This was under the command of Admiral Sir George Cockburn (who had burned the White House three years earlier), and who was also appointed to be the first governor of St. Helena during Napoleon's imprisonment there.

The 'Ferret' was ordered to form part of the escort squadron taking Napoleon on the Northumberland to St. Helena. They arrived at that island on October 15, 1815, and the 'Ferret' remained there on patrol duties around the island to prevent attempts at escape or rescue of Napoleon until she was ordered back to Britain with Cockburn's first despatches regarding the exiled Emperor in March 1816.

On that journey, near the equator off Sierra Leone, on April 4th, 1816, the 'Ferret' fell in with the slaver 'Dolores' , which although American owned, ran up the Spanish flag. The Royal Navy was then actively enforcing the British governments anti-slavery policies on the high seas. The 'Ferret' gave chase, and after a savage running fight with fatalities on both sides, the 'Dolores' was captured. It was found she had 275 slaves aboard - but more remarkable yet, it turned out that she was the sister ship of the 'Ferret' (formerly 'Rapid')! She had also been a former American privateer, and had been built at the same yard! The 'Ferret' took the 'Dolores' into the Vice Admiralty Court at Sierra Leone, where she was condemned as Prize.

The 'Ferret' continued home to England, where she was again decommissioned on 28 June. She was sold by the Royal Navy in 1820, and her fate thereafter is not presently known.

I hope you find the adventurous role of you ancestor's ship with the Royal Navy of interest. I would be interested to learn your sources for the history of the 'Rapid's construction and early service? Do you know whether she was actually built in the yards at Portland, or elsewhere in Maine? Also, do you have any information rlating to the 'Rapid's' sister ship the 'Dolores' (she may not have been called that when first built)? I'd be very grateful and interested if you can help with any of these questions regarding the 'Rapid' and hope you find the story of her time with the Royal Navy of interest.

With Kind Regards,
Yours Sincerely,
George A. Webster
(St. Andrews, Scotland)"

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath was able to find that the Rapid was built in Portland in 1809 but there was no information listed on the Dolores. I will do additional research at the Portland Historical and see if they have any further information on the shipyard there, or anything on the Dolores. As I receive information I will update this article.

Maine Granite Industry Museum

We visited the Maine Granite Industry Museum in Mt Desert on Sunday

When a group of Agreen descendents were looking for his Skillings River fort at one reunion, cousin Liz Ducharme mentioned that she and her husband Bill had been locating abandoned granite quarries in the area and bringing back samples of stone from each one. She said that the samples and old tools that they were gathering would find their way into a museum that Steven Haynes and Juanita Sprague were developing on Maine's lost granite industry.

Steve Haynes showed how granite building blocks were made

Steve splitting a slab of granite

After spending nine years scouring the state for old photos, tools, logbooks, machinery and other unique artifacts the museum opened last year in Mt Desert as the Maine Granite Industry Historical Society and Museum. Stone samples from over 400 abandoned quarries in Maine are on display at the museum, including many of the samples that Liz and Bill collected in their travels.

Steve met us at the Museum and gave us a tour of the exhibits. "A lot of this history has been buried for 125 years," he said. "We wanted to tell the story how Maine and the men who worked these quarries in the 19th century helped build this country." Maine granite was used to construct the US Congress, the Washington Monument, state and federal buildings, and churches and cathedrals up and down the east coast. Workers came from Scotland, Finland, Wales and Italy to work in the quarries and to carve stone figures for the building boom of the late 1800s.

A model of a working granite quarry at the museum

The museum is housed in half of Steve's father's engine repair shop off Route 102 until a more permanent home can be found for it. Surrounding the museum are old quarry tools and engines, and piles of granite being shaped into paving blocks and bulding blocks. A model of a working quarry is on display complete with the sounds of hammers splitting rock, winches and motors, and blasting. Liz said that she and Bill helped make these typical quarry sounds and Steve recorded them to play in the background to give realism to the exhibits.

Steve demonstrated how building blocks were made using hand chisels and hammers. "In the late 1800s a thousand granite building blocks were worth $4 at the quarry. Delivered to New York City they fetched $92 a thousand. Can you imagine how long it would take the average worker to split 1,000 of these stone blocks by hand? he asked.

Using a drill and small metal wedges and a maul, Steve showed us how precisely a granite slab can be split from a large piece of stone. This was a skill not restricted to just stone quarries. I have found boulders and parts of ledge in the woods behind our house in Sebago showing signs where slabs of stone have been split from them, and these slabs can be found around the farm as steps and gate posts.

One of the quarries that is featured in the Museum is the Crabtree and Harvey Quarry in Sullivan. Steve had some pictures of it on display.

The Crabtree and Harvey Quarry, Sullivan, 1923

A. B. Crabtree, Granite Quarry Owner

The Crabtree and Harvey Quarry opened in 1865 and was located in the town of Sullivan, 3/4 mile from the Sullivan River. Our ancestor A.B. Crabtree owned the quarry and it was operated by H. H. Havey of North Sullivan. The quarry produced a medium-gray stone with a fine to medium texture. Stone cut from the quarry was hauled by cart to the wharf on the river.

The quarry operated for several years. When it was measured in 1905 it was 300 feet by 200 feet with a depth of 10 feet. Granite from the quarry was used mainly for curbing and crossings.

I asked Steve as we were leaving the museum if he had ever heard Schooner Fare's "Boats of Stone", written by Steve Romanoff. He hadn't. To me this is a wonderful history of the Maine granite trade set to music, and I later sent a copy of their CD "Our Maine Songs" to the museum. I received an e-mail in return: "We have received and listened (several times) to Boats of Stone, IT IS WONDERFUL! These guys really did their research to write this one. We really appreciate this generous gift from you. Monday I go to the Ellsworth HS for a teacher workshop and set up a small exhibit. I am hoping this will get student groups in to the exhibit in the spring. You can bet they will be listening to Boats of Stone! Thanks again!!!"

And we thank Steve, Liz and Bill for adding this experience to our Crabtree family reunion this year. If anyone who missed out on the tour would like to go next year, I am sure that Liz and Bill can help out with directions.

Our Next Reunion

As I have done for several years, I asked the group at our gathering if they wanted to meet again in 2004 and what they would like to do. The conscensus was "yes" to meet next year, and there were several ideas about activities. I will try again to arrange a lobster pound tour, and possibly Steve Crabtree will be moved back to their home on Crabtree Neck and will host a house tour. We have never had a group event at the Hancock Historical, and perhaps Lois Johnson can be persuaded to open the museum for us for some research. A tour of the Rockerfellow Gardens at Seal Harbor was also suggested, and I will call and see what can be set up.

Mark your calendars now for Saturday, October 9, 2004 for the eight annual Crabtree Family gathering in Hancock. This is the Columbus Day weekend, and the colors should be magnificent and the weather ideal. Here is one more picture from our reunion this year.

The Searesville Bridge in its autumn glory

Topics In This Journal Entry:

[The Seventh Reunion] [The Privateer "Rapid"] [Maine Granite Industry Museum] [Our Next Reunion]

References used in this Journal Entry

American Prisoners of War that died at the British Interment Camp at Halifax, Nova Scotia in the War of 1812

Americans Buried at Dartmoor Prison

Chapelle, Howard I. The History of the American Sailing Navy. Bonanza Books, NY. page 237.

Chapman, Liz. "MDI museum to honor Maine's men of granite". Bangor News, September 2, 2002.

Fairburn, William A. Merchant Sale. Fairburn, Center Lovell, ME 1945. Pages 3143-3144.

Felknor, Bruce. A Privateersman's Letters Home from Prison. Letters from Lt. Perez Drinkwater of North Yarmouth, Maine, imprisoned at Dartmoor. For more information visit the U.S. Maritime Service Veterans website at

Haynes, Steve. The Maine Granite Industry Historical Society Museum. Information on granite quarries and the granite industry. Mount Desert, ME

Higgins, Pat. The Hyder Ally: Maine's Unluckiest Privateer

Maclay, Edgar Stanton. A History of American Privateers. D. Appleton, NY. page 229.

Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, Maine

Perazzo, Peggy B. "Stone Quarries and Beyond". Information on the Crabtree and Havey Quarry in Sullivan, ME. Based on information from T. Nelson Dale's "The Commercial Granites of New England, Bulletin 738", Government Printing Office 1923.

Sailing Ships of the Royal Navy

"Turning the Tide, Protecting a Natural Wonder for the People of Downeast Maine". Frenchman Bay Conservancy and Tidal Falls. Brochure.

Webster, George A. Information on the American privateer "Rapid" and her later life as the HMS "Ferret", e-mail, November 2003. St. Andrews, Scotland.

Last updated April 28, 2004

Copyright © 2003, 2004, Allen Crabtree