May 24, 2018
Family Ties Latest News | Poll Questions | Sharon Carrillo | Elver Season | Goat Airbnb

Palin forebear a ‘high sheriff’ of Edgartown

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

If you read the Oct. 16 front-page story in the Bangor Daily News on Gov. Sarah Palin’s Gower ancestry in Abbot Village — and I hope you did — you may be wondering who else the governor had for forebears and relatives in Maine.

The story focused on James Gower, son of English emigrant Robert Gower and Mary (Henry) Gower of Topsham.

James’ line comes down through Cornelius Gower, Arthur C. Gower, James Carl Gower to daughter Helen (Gower) Sheeran to Sally (Sheeran) Heath, Sarah Palin’s mother. The line went through Farmington, Abbot, Winslow, Michigan, Wisconsin, Idaho and Washington before Charles and Sally Heath moved with infant Sarah to Alaska in 1964.

We followed the family’s moves through U.S. Census records, for the most part. The University of Maine’s Fogler Library has Maine census records from 1790 to 1930, except for the 1890 records, which burned.

James Gower, born about 1772 in Topsham, married Susannah Norton on Sept. 2, 1800, according to Francis Gould Butler’s “A History of Farmington, Maine 1776-1885.”

Butler listed James and Susannah Gower’s children as:

• Mary, born 1801, married Thomas Croswell. Lived in Abbot at one point.

• Robert, 1803, married Rosamond Greenwood, daughter of Alexander. Lived in Abbot, moved to Iowa.

• John Holmes, 1804, lost at sea.

• James Henry, 1806, married Borredell Greenwood, daughter of Alexander.

• Cordelia, 1808, married Hollis Greenwood. Moved to Michigan.

• Cornelius, 1811, married Abigail Hawes. Lived in Abbot, moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., and Wisconsin.

• Charles, 1812, married Clarissa Hawes. Served in the Maine Legislature.

• Eben, 1814, married in Greenville, S.C., moved to Gainesville, Ga.

• Susan, 1819, married Willard Hammond. Moved to Tipton, Iowa.

• Davis, 1820, married Susan Hawes. Lived in Abbot, moved to Winthrop by 1870.

• Thomas, 1822, moved to Greenville, S.C., three times married.

• Samuel, died in infancy.

Robert Gower, James’ father, also had children by first wife Margaret (Alexander). The Farmington history lists them as:

• Edward, married and settled near Gardiner, had two daughters.

• William, 1764.

For more information on Edward’s family, see Vol. 9 of “Maine Families in 1790,” edited by Joseph Crook Anderson II.

The account of Edward Gower’s family was provided by Gerald Gower of Raymond, a longtime member of the Maine Genealogical Society. He lists Edward’s children born in Litchfield as Eliphalet, died young; Apphia, married Benjamin Whitten; and Martha, married John Maxwell.

There were three Gower families in Maine, Jerry told me last week. In addition to the Topsham-Farmington-Abbot Gowers in Palin’s ancestry, there were Gowers who lived Down East, having come from Tennessee. He’s from the Tennessee Gowers.

There also was a Joshua Gower family in New Gloucester, he explained, and some of that line moved on to Hartland.

The Farmington history also tells us about Sarah Palin’s Nortons. Susannah, James Gower’s wife, was one of 10 children born to Cornelius and Lydia (Claghorn) Norton.

Cornelius Norton, born 1746, was one of 13 children of Revolutionary War patriot Peter Norton and wife Sarah (Bassett). According to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Peter Norton rendered patriotic service as “high sheriff” of Edgartown, Mass.

Peter was born in 1718 in Edgartown to Ebenezer and Deborah (Mayhew) Norton.

I first found Gov. Palin’s connection to Abbot on a Rootsweb Web site by Robert Battle, with the assistance of other genealogists, at

For an overview of Palin’s ancestry, read “Sarah Palin’s Ancestry: Solid New England,” by Rosemary E. Bachelor on Suite 101 at

You may know the name Rosemary Bachelor from when she lived Down East and worked on the genealogical publications Downeast Ancestry and Second Boat. She writes many interesting articles on Suite 101.

Next week, we’ll look at more genealogical tidbits on the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like