Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Fort Havoc (Wallace Hale)

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Houlton Men At Woodstock


In this article we shall briefly trace the growth of Houlton. Joseph Houlton, in whose honor it was named, had a large family when in April 1807 he left New Salem for his forest home. He was a man of some property and brought with him a far more elaborate outfit than is customary with new settlers, including not merely articles for common housekeeping, but china and silverware; wheat to sow in the field, flower seeds, peony bulbs, and all sorts of medicinal herbs, in the use of which his wife was quite an adept. The oldest daughter of the family married Samuel Cook and with her husband and two children came to Houlton in company with her parents. The other children of the family were James, Polly, Lydia, Louisa, Samuel, Joseph and Henry. The family embarked at Boston and came to Fredericton in a schooner chartered for the purpose. They arrived there about the middle of May after a tedious passage of six weeks. Soon after they reached Woodstock where they were taken in by Aaron Putnam, Mrs. Houlton's brother. The father and older sons pushed on to the Houlton plantation where they at once set to work and managed to get in quite a field of wheat and a patch of potatoes.

Towards the end of August Mrs. Houlton and her daughter Lydia, then 14 years of age, rode ten miles through the woods toward Houlton following a bridle path which at length became impassable, so that they were obliged to proceed the last few miles on foot. The father and sons were busily employed harvesting their wheat when suddenly they heard the sound of approaching voices. After listening a moment Mr. Houlton said, "That is Sarah's voice; your mother has come," and they all rushed into the woods to welcome her. Mrs. Houlton brought on her arms a basket which contained her china tea set. A log house was speedily built and the rest of the family were brought over from Woodstock. Samuel Cook and his family, now increased by the addition of a daughter Fanny born while the family tarried at Woodstock, came over the same fall. Their house was built in the field where the first wheat was grown.

Lydia Houlton, the fourteen year old girl who with her mother made the somewhat adventurous journey through the woods, afterwards married Isaac Smith, son of Captain Jacob Smith, the old British half pay officer of Woodstock. They lived for a time at Richmond but at Mrs. Smith's persuasion Isaac Smith sold to Charles Woolhaupter his farm and moved to Houlton. It would seem in this instance that Houlton got the better of Woodstock; but time generally evens up matters; some few years ago Henry B. Smith, a sturdy grandson of the old loyalist Michael Smith, went across the border to get satisfaction and finding that Lydia Houlton had a daughter Lydia, carried her back to Woodstock with him and she is there yet.

In the early days of Houlton the widow Lydia (Trask) Putnam was "a mother in Israel,." She possessed a natural faculty for nursing and used old fashioned remedies with skill and judgment. Her services in case of sickness were sought far and wide. In April 1820 when she was eighty-seven years of age she rode on horse back over the rough road to Woodstock to be present at the birth of a son of Mr. Isaac Smith's. The effort was too great for her and she died shortly after her return.

The first frame dwellings at Houlton were built by a Mr. Wormwood who learned the carpenter's trade in Saco. He came from Bangor to Houlton in 1812 after a perilous journey through the woods in which he lost his way and arrived at the house of Dr. Rice in a state of utter exhaustion. Mr. Wormwood built a frame house for Dr. Rice the same year and soon after another for Aaron Putnam; the latter largely remodelled, still stands not far from the bridge at Houlton. Mr. Wormwood's family came on in 1813 and as the "war of 1812" was then in progress it was impossible to reach Houlton by the St. John river as most of the other settlers had done and it was necessary to follow the old Indian trail by way of Eel river. For eleven nights the mother and her children had to camp out with no better shelter than a tent made of quilts and rugs. One of the children who lived to be an old lady used to narrate the toils and perils of the journey; she was compelled to walk beside her mother across the carrying places. "At one of those places," she said, "I was so tired I sat down and refused to go on — I said we should die any way, for we should never get out of the dreadful woods." However after many toils and perils they did get out of "the dreadful woods" and arrived at the river St. John where they were met by Mr. Wormwood who had come with two horses to assist them to their destination. They spent the night at Mr. Wolverton's in Northampton and the next day came on horseback through the woods to Houlton.

The heads of the families who then lived there were Joseph Houlton, Aaron Putnam, Dr. Samuel Rice, Joshua Putnam, James Houlton, Ebenezer Warner and Samuel Cook. In addition to these families Samuel Houlton, Greenleaf Kendall, Samuel Kendall and the widow Lydia Putnam comprised the entire population of the place, amounting to about 42 souls in all, of whom the major part were children. There were six log houses besides the framed ones built by Mr. Wormwood for Dr. Rice and Aaron Putnam. The latter had also a log barn and a saw mill on the east bank of the Meduxnakik. Such was Houlton in 1813. Woodstock now began to build up faster than Houlton and Mr. Wormwood, after building one more framed dwelling, moved across the line in the fall of 1814 and settled at Upper Woodstock where he lived for some years and where his wife died in April 1817. His daughter Christiana afterwards married Aaron Putnam's eldest son.

In our last article it was stated that Dr. Rice's house at Woodstock, which was considered quite a mansion in its day, was built by Shephard Carey. The circumstances under which this young man, who was destined to play so prominent a part in the future of the place, was led to come to Houlton was quite romantic.

At the time Joseph Houlton made up his mind to settle in the back woods more than a hundred miles from any settlement in Maine, his eldest son James was engaged to a Miss Sarah Haskell of New Salem. This spirited young woman was determined to share in the founding of the new settlement, and she accordingly was married to James Houlton the very morning the party left New Salem. She left behind her a sister Catherine who married Wm. H. Cary of New Salem. In 1822 the Carys came to Houlton. Shephard was born in New Salem July 3, 1805. As a young man he showed marked originality and force of character. He worked while yet in his teens as a house builder at Houlton and in the province of New Brunswick carefully saving his wages. He was able in 1826 to set up a small store. His trade rapidly developed and he engaged largely in lumbering which in those days consisted mainly in cutting, hewing and driving to Fredericton the pine timber on the Meduxnakik above Houlton. The pine trees were roughly squared with the narrow axe and on reaching St. John were dressed with the broad axe before being shipped to England. The usual style of teams was eight horses together in summer and six in winter. With such a team about thirty men were needed. An eight horse team could haul perhaps a thousand tons of timber in the course of a season, that is from July till driving time next spring. The sticks of pine timber were sometimes so large as to test the strength of the eight horses to haul it to the landing. Shephard Cary lumbered very extensively on the Allegash. His supplies went up the St. John river in tow boats and across the country by way of Ashland in the winter. Wm. H. Cunliffe of Fort Kent, the big lumber operator on the upper St. John, began his career with Cary driving a team between Houlton and Woodstock, he afterwards was employed as foreman of the hewing parties on the Allegash. Shephard Cary was almost as well known in Woodstock as in Houlton and many of the residents of the St. John river were benefitted by the employment furnished through his enterprise. His brother Holman Cary was also well known in Woodstock, and like his brother was a lumberer. He was an original character and noted for his humorous sayings. Shephard Cary continued to the end of his days one of Houlton's leading men. He engaged in milling and other enterprises and also found time for politics. He died August 9, 1866, ages 61 years having witnessed the progress of Houlton from a small hamlet to a town of 2,000 inhabitants.

Samuel Kendall, another of the Houlton men who were at one time residents of Woodstock, came to Houlton with Dr. and Mrs. Rice (the latter being his aunt) in the year 1811. Three years later his father and the remainder of the family arrived and lived in a log house opposite where the foundry now is. Samuel had received a good education and began teaching school in the parish of Wakefield in 1815. At the close of the year he was engaged to teach the Woodstock school near the parish church. The old log school house that stood there, in which James Yorke and John D. Beardsley had taught, was replaced by a frame building completed in 1816. Under date December 2nd, 1816, Rev. F. Dibblee writes in his diary, "Kendall began school this day in the new school house." His terms were ten shillings per annum for each scholar; he also received 20 pounds from government. Rev. Mr. Dibblee frequently visited the school and on his recommendation Mr. Kendall received a further grant from the S. P. G. of 20 pounds sterling.

Kendall was something of a musician and while at Woodstock conducted the first singing school held there. He was an excellent violinist as well, and his services were often in demand at parties and social gatherings of the olden time. On the fourth of July 1817, there was held at Houlton a notable festivity long after remembered as the "Linemen's Ball." It came about in this way. A large party of commissioners, surveyors and workmen were engaged surveying the boundary between the United States and New Brunswick. Sir Archibald Campbell and Mr. Bouchette were at the head of the British exploring party and Col. Turner and Mr. Johnson a the head of the American. The entire party numbered about sixty; their observatory was situated on Parks' hill. On the evening of the "glorious fourth" a ball was held in the unfinished lower story of Esquire Houlton's new house. The music was supplied by Samuel Kendall and Uncle Billy Upham of Woodstock. It had been quietly arranged that Squire Houlton's daughter, Miss Louisa, should open the ball with Sir Archibald Campbell but bidding defiance to all conventionality, he selected a little miss in white of twelve or fourteen summers, saying, "I will dance first with the little girl," and he did. He then gallantly escorted Miss Houlton to the floor where he danced so vigorously that he professed to have sprained his foot and retired for the remainder of the evening in favor of the younger folk. The little Miss who was honored on the occasion used to tell the story to her grand children. Just how long Samuel Kendall taught school at Woodstock is uncertain but that he remained there till at least the close of his third year is shown by the following entry in Rev. Mr. Dibblee's diary:— "Sunday, Dec. 20, 1818 — At night Kendall had a singing school at the church." It is but fair to add in this connection that the school master Kendall may have been the father of the younger Saml. Kendall who was spoken of at Houlton as Deacon Samuel Kendall. The son Samuel was a very young man in 1815.


W. O. Raymond


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[Published 23 Oct. 1895]