Monday, May 30, 2016


             Even though the John Carter family was enumerated in Saco, Maine on the 1810 census, John was already a landholder in Newry, Maine.  Just two months after their second child, Almira, was born, on 8 March 1808, John made his first purchase of land in Newry, Oxford County.  A second deed was entered into on 6 May 1809 for more land in Newry.  At the time Hannah was pregnant with their third child, Hannah, and probably wanted to wait for her birth before actually making the move.  By the 1811 tax list in Newry, John and his family had made the move.

Newry Sign at intersection of U.S. Route 2 and Maine State Route 26

            Newry is located not quite 90 miles generally north of Saco by modern highway and is about half way to the modern border of Canada along Maine’s northern border.  The following is a brief description of Newry from “History of Newry, Maine” in A Gazetteer of the State of Maine, by Geo. J. Varney (published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill, Boston, 1886):  “Newry lies in the western part of Oxford County, just north of Androscoggin River. It is bounded on the south by Bethel, east by Hanover and Rumford, north by Andover, north-west by Grafton and west by Riley… (the) Bear River crosses the midst of the town from north-west to south-east, entering the Androscoggin River where, by a northward bend, it touches the south line of Newry… The first settlements were made here in 1781, by Benjamin Barker and his two brothers, from Methuen, Mass., and Ithiel Smith, of Cape Elizabeth, Me. These families were plundered by the Canada Indians in 1782, and removed to other parts until after the establishment of peace. The first sale of the township proved abortive, and it reverted to the State. In 1794 John J. Holmes of New Jersey purchased it, taking the deed in his sister Bostwick's name, wherefore it for a while bore her name (ie. – Boswell Plantaton.) It was also included under the general name of Sudbury-Canada, applied to several towns about here. It was incorporated June 15, 1805, receiving the name of Newry in deference to some of the settlers, who had emigrated from Newry, in Ireland.”  

            So John was moving to the frontier of Maine.  His first purchase of land there came just four years after the incorporation of the community.  In Newry Profiles 1805 – 1980 by Paula M Wight some more insights can be found about early Newry.  In 1790 the US Federal Census for Newry showed twelve heads of families and a total of some 50 inhabitants.  By 1800 the population increased to 92 souls and in 1810 shortly before John and his family arrived the community numbered a little over 200. 

Artist Covered Bridge - Newry - built in  1871
Bear River - Newry, Maine

            Farms were established on the intervals (land between the hills), which had excellent soil.  Hay was the principal crop.  The family farms could also produce oats, wheat, corn, potatoes, rye, and peas to help feed the family.  Slopes of the mountains provided pasturage for grazing animals.  Lumbering was also an important business providing a sawmill on the Bear River with plenty of lumber.  The early inhabitants spent considerable time hunting, trapping and fishing.  Some of the wild animals provided meat for the tables and the trappers of bear, box, beaver and mink found a good market in the fur industry.  It can be seen that this was a community on the edge of civilization.

Possible Route Scarborough to Newry
So what route did the Carters take to get from Saco/Scarborough to Newry.  We have no account of this journey but in Wikipedia the following was found:  “The trade route (now Route 26) from Portland to Errol, New Hampshire, completed in 1802, passed through Newry. Farms were established on the intervales, which had excellent soil. Hay was the principal crop. Slopes of the mountains provided pasturage for grazing animals. A sawmill and gristmill were built on the Bear River, and by 1870 the population was 416.” (Newry, Maine, in Wikipedia at,_Maine) Using Google Maps the route from the approximate location of John’s father’s home to Bethel, using Route 26, is approximately 82.7 miles.  The under 2 hours it takes today doesn’t do justice to the effort it would have taken the Carters to make this journey around 1811.  It was probably a week’s journey.  One must wonder what went through the minds of John and Hannah as they left family and friends to start a new life in the newly settled wilderness.

            The year 1811 began the single longest period of time when the family would live in the same location.  The time the Carters were in Newry is actually well documented above the other places they would live.  They were now situated where destiny would bring them the Gospel but that event was down the road a few years.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy your blog. It is fun to follow a story that leaves you hanging until the next installment.