Houlton history grows with museum donation

Posted Oct. 14, 2010, at 3:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Another donation to the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum expands its collection of civil war era memorabilia and contributes to the story of Houlton.

Leigh Cummings, Jr., a museum director and the recording secretary, recently accepted several items that belonged to 2nd Lt. Rosalvo Emerson Orcutt.

Among the items donated by Orcutt’s granddaughter, Helen Brooks Palmer, were a gold-tone or brass emblem with crossed sabers indicating he was a member of the First Maine Cavalry Company E, the cording for a wide-brimmed military hat and a gold-tone metal eagle wearing a shield and three arrows in its talons.

Also donated were Orcutt’s medal as a delegate to the 12th annual convention of the Grand Army of the Republic, a classic six-shooter from the 19th century, a 1920 photo of Orcutt and his wife Annie Rose and a tag from the storage and packing company Orcutt founded in St. Louis, Mo.

“What is of particular interest is that when Lt. Orcutt applied for his pension due to battlefield injuries from the Civil War, he had Capt. Blackhawk Putnam submit an affidavit stating that he knew him and was with him when Lt. Orcutt was injured,” Cummings said.

A copy of that original affidavit that is on file in the National Archives was also donated to the museum.

Cummings, who has inspected several documents from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., said Orcutt received a battlefield promotion and actually commanded Company E during Blackhawk Putnam’s absence.

Catherine “Kay” Bell, the museum’s curator, said the donations enlarge “the portion of material we have concerning Houlton recruits who were led by Blackhawk Putnam who is a direct descendant of one of Houlton’s founding fathers. To us it’s very important.”

Cummings added that “Maine sent more men to fight in the Civil War than any other state, north or south, per capita.”

Brooks Palmer, Orcutt’s granddaughter, made the donation at the behest of her late mother.

“My mother always impressed upon me that she was the last of the direct descendants,” she said. “And, she said this must go someplace where people will appreciate what these people did to preserve the Union.”

Brooks Palmer said her grandfather left Aroostook County for St. Louis because of his injuries from the Civil War.

“My mother told me he always had to wear a scarf around his stomach because things kept coming out,” she said. “He caught a rebel cavalryman’s saber. And, there was another saber wound to his head which gave him epilepsy later in life.”

Bell and Cummings are encouraging others to visit and share their historical materials with the museum.


Helen Brooks Palmer (left) gives background on her grandfather’s possessions from the Civil War during a meeting with Catherine “Kay” Bell and Leigh Cummings in the Ricker Room at the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum in Houlton.