To understand the interaction that John Carter had with his peers in Newry, Maine when he lived there we need to understand the purely democratic nature of local government in early New England. Newry in 1810 was actually in Massachusetts and remained as such until 1820 when the people of the area we know of as Maine were allowed to succeed from Massachusetts and form their own state. Maine was accepted as the 23rd state of the Union on 15 March 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise where Maine was admitted into the union as a free state and Missouri was admitted as a slave state – thus preserving the equal number of slave and free states in the Union.
So how was the community of Newry governed? The following is from the article “Town Meetings” found at Wikipedia:
|Typical Town Meeting|
“Town meeting is a form of local government practiced in the U.S. region of New England since colonial times, and in some western states since at least the late 19th century…The Puritans, who believed in Congregationalist church governance, established town meetings when they established the various New England colonies.
In Maine, the town meeting system originated during the period when Maine was a district of Massachusetts. Most cities and towns operate under the town meeting form of government or a modified version of it. Maine annual town meetings traditionally are held in March. Special town meetings also may be called from time to time.
The executive agency of town government is an elected, part-time board, known as the Board of Selectmen or Select Board, having three, five or seven members. Between sessions the board of selectmen interprets the policy set at Town Meeting and is assigned numerous duties including: approving all town non-school expenditures, authorizing highway construction and repair, serving as town purchasing agent for non-school items, issuing licenses and overseeing the conduct of all town activities. Often the part-time selectmen also serve as town assessors, overseers of the poor as well as road commissioners. Generally, there are other elected town officers whose duties are specified in law. These may include clerks, assessors, tax collector, treasurer, school committee, constables, and others.”
In 1810 when John and family arrived in Newry, it had been established as a town for five years. So even though it was relatively new, John was would have been considered an outsider when compared to the original inhabitants. Though other men would be found serving in elected positons most every year, John’s service was more sporadic. That being said, John would still have to be viewed as a contributing member of this small Maine community.
Newry held annual and monthly town meetings to transact the business of the community. These town meeting books have been preserved and filmed by FamilySearch. (Office of Town Clerk, Newry, Maine, Town Records, 1805 - 1846, Family History Library Film #11589, pages unnumbered)
In 1812 he was elected as the town field driver. In New England this was the town officer charged with driving stray cattle to the town cattle compound. In 1817 he was elected to a committee with John Libby and Luke Riley. Unfortunately the purpose of this committee was undecipherable.
|Early New England Style Home|
In 1822 John was sworn in as town tax collector and constable after having given the lowest bid – 6 cents on the dollar. This means his pay for being tax collector was 6 % of the money that he raised. John continued as tax collector / constable into 1823 and was also one of the Highway Surveyors that year. On 7 Apr 1823 he was replaced as tax collector / constable by Abel Hibbard. At that town meeting John was paid $.59 for nails and $2.41 for posting notices for the meetings.
On 2 Mar 1829 John, Melven Stow, and Joseph S Barker were chosen as selectmen and assessors. Selectmen in New England were officers chosen annually to transact the general public business of the town and to have a kind of executive authority. The assessors were the men who determined the tax rates on property. That year John and John Libby were a committee that reported on the town boundaries. There was talk in Newry of parts of the town being absorbed into nearby communities and the two men were a committee who reported on this topic to the community as a whole.
On 2 Mar 1830 Enoch Foster, John Carter and Andrew Twitchell were selected as field surveyors and Fence viewers. John was paid $15.37 for town business transacted in the previous year. On 4 Mar 1833 John served another year as collector and constable. Interestingly the rate of the replacement the next year was 1 cent and 9 mills on the dollar which means the pay for this position had be greatly reduced from 6% to a little over 1% in just a few years.
The previous paragraphs chronicle John’s elected career through 1833. The sum of the forgoing is that John appears to be a respected leader of the community. He will in fact be elected to office twice after 1833 but we will reserve the record of those offices for a later day. The reason is we have about reached the chronological point in this narrative that will describe events that will completely and forever change the lives of the members of this family.