Growing up in Dover-Foxcroft, Carlson Williams’ family often told stories about local history around the dinner table. One of his favorite tales to hear was also among the most gruesome: the story of the murder of Alvin Watson in the nearby town of Parkman in June 1881.
“We’d tell the story around the Thanksgiving table,” said Williams, 80, a retired engineer who returned to his hometown two years ago with his wife, Carolyn, after living in Connecticut for decades. “It does sound like kind of a dark thing to talk about at Thanksgiving, but it’s really quite a story.”
Williams comes from a long line of lawyers and judges in Piscataquis County, which is how he’s come to possess the key piece of evidence in the case against Watson’s alleged killer: the hand-forged, four-inch dagger used to kill Watson.
A Maine history enthusiast, Williams has tracked down all the information he can find on the Watson murder, and has compiled what he believes is an accurate telling of the story, which he has given talks on at local libraries since moving back to Maine.
The story starts in the 1870s on the Chadbourne farm in Parkman. Benjamin Chadbourne was, according to local lore, a famously hot-tempered man who at that time was married to his third wife, Caroline. He had two sons from previous marriages: Wallace with his first wife, and Byron with his second.
In 1877, at age 29, Wallace Chadbourne married his stepsister, 16-year-old Eva. The couple had been farming the land alongside his father when a new neighbor moved onto the farm next door: Alvin Watson, an unmarried man newly arrived in Parkman. The situation began to unravel when Wallace and Eva temporarily separated in 1879. Wallace left town and found work in Dexter, and Eva stayed on the farm.
According to Williams, when Wallace Chadbourne returned to Parkman in 1880, he began to suspect that Eva had been unfaithful to him with Watson. When Eva gave birth to a child in 1881, he suspected that Watson might be the father. Watson, in turn, began to harass Wallace Chadbourne. Threats and physical violence became common.
“There were constant back-and-forths, and Watson really egged Wallace Chadbourne on,” said Williams. “They were at each other’s throats, and eventually, the Chadbournes decided to really do something about it.”
On the night of June 26, 1881, Alvin Watson was brutally murdered. He was found the next morning with multiple stab wounds in his chest and back, and with his throat slit. A local doctor who examined the body found 49 stab wounds.
Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.
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