May 23, 2018
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Turner history yields data on early settlers

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

The Androscoggin County town of Turner was first called Sylvester, Sylvestertown and Sylvester Canada — and with good reason.

The land was first granted to Capt. Joseph Sylvester and his company for service in the expedition against Canada in 1690, though it was decades before it was actually settled.

The original proprietors as listed in 1768 numbered 60, but it was a few years later that a handful of men arrived, according to a manuscript by Dr. Timothy Howe, cited in Rev. W.R. French’s “A History of Turner, Maine from Its Settlement to 1886”:

“But this year, Daniel Staples, Thomas Records, Elisha Records, Joseph Leavitt and Abner Phillips entered the town with axes on their shoulders, and commenced the first actual settlement of the place. These were the first true pioneers of Turner.” Isn’t that a great image?

Howe’s work also gave information on the origins of many of the early settlers, which is one of the most important things I always look for in town histories.

– Samuel Blake of Taunton, Mass., who married Abigail Richard of Thompson, Conn.

– Israel Haskell of New Gloucester, and wife Abigail (Davis).

– Hezekiah Bryant from Halifax, Mass., who was married four times: 1) Deborah Crooker of Pembroke, Mass. 2) Mary Ellis of Hebron. 3) widow Joanna Colley. 4) widow Rebecca Child.

– Moses Stephens of New Gloucester, who married 1) Mary Collins. 2) widow Hannah Davis of Gloucester, Mass.

– John Keen, from Taunton in 1777, married to Jerusha (Blake).

– William Hayford, in 1777. Hayford, one of my Revolutionary War ancestors, was from Pembroke, Mass., and was married to Betty Bonney. (Vice President Hannibal Hamlin has a Bonney line as well.)

– Jacob Leavitt, married to Sylvia Bonney.

– Daniel Briggs, from Taunton in 1777, had married Silence Hart. These are my ancestors, too. Their son, Abiathar Briggs, married William Hayford’s daughter, Matilda, and moved to Parkman. William and Matilda are buried beside the Baptist church there.

– Stephen Bryant, from Halifax, had married Rebecca Bass.

– Rev. Charles Turner, from Scituate, Mass.

– Ichabod Bonney, from Pembroke, married Mary Turner.

– Joseph Copeland, married to Celia Loring.

– Dr. Daniel Child of Woodstock, Conn., married to Rebecca Howland.

– Daniel French, from Taunton, married Sarah Sumner.

– Joshua Barrell from Bridgewater, Mass., married Olive Bass.

– Deacon Benjamin True, from New Gloucester, married Rhoda Merrill.

– Ezekiel Bradford, from Duxbury, Mass., married Betsy Chandler.

Children were listed for many of the above-named families, and there also was information on other early families of Turner.

Also in the history are marriages performed by the Rev. John Strickland, 1785-1797; and by Ichabod Bonney, 1790-1797.

Heads of household in Turner in 1780 were Jotham Briggs, Israel Haskell, Daniel Briggs, Abner Phillips, Daniel Staples, Josiah Staples, Benjamin Merrill, Moses Stephens, Joseph Leavitt, Jacob Leavitt, Charles Turner Jr., William Turner 2nd, Seth Staples, John Keen, Daniel Merrill, Benjamin True, Richard Phillips, Malachi Waterman, Jabez Merrill, Levi Merrill, Ezekiel Bradford Jr., Hezekiah Hill, Isaac Phillips, Stephen Bryant, William Hayford, Samuel Andrews, William Bradford, Jesse Bradford, Hezekiah Bryant, James Crooker, Ebenezer Crooker, Samuel Blake, Mark Andrews, Henry Jones. The population of the town was 132.

We see that even a town history that isn’t primarily genealogy can give us lots of information on our ancestors.

Do you have memories of Boy Scouting in Maine or know someone who does?

Katahdin Area Council has established a historical committee for the purpose of preserving the oral, written and photographic history of the Katahdin Area Council, Camp Roosevelt and the Maine High Adventure program.

The council seeks help in finding individuals who have memories of past Scouting adventures in order to conduct interviews to be filmed on video. Photographs, documents and news articles pertaining to area Boy Scout history also are sought.

Those who can be of assistance in saving the history of Scouting in the Katahdin Council may e-mail Steve Frost at or Gary Savignano at, or mail information to: Katahdin Area Council Boy Scouts of America, P.O. Box 1869, Bangor, ME 04402. For information, call 866-2241.

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

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