January 7, 2014
CHAPTER 1: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN YEATON
Several years ago a psychic medium friend gave me the message that I should write a compendium. When I asked her, “What’s that?” she replied, “I don’t know, you’ll have to look it up in the dictionary.” For those, like me, who don’t know what a compendium is, this is what the dictionary says: “A compendium is a short summary of the main points or ideas of a larger work: abridgment: condensation.” My first thought was to put together what I had and knew about my grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Yeaton. I had some facts about him and recollections from conversations with my mother, Lora.
In order to more fully understand what life was like during my grandfather’s childhood, we must first paint the best mental picture that we can of that period before his birth. To begin, Benjamin Franklin Yeaton’s grandfather, Paul Yeaton, came to Belgrade in 1793. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, a Private 2nd class in Bartlett’s Company, New Hampshire Militia in 1780 and 1781. Paul’s father, Richard Yeaton, was also a Revolutionary War soldier having died in late 1776 from exposure. Paul Yeaton came to Belgrade in 1793 with brothers Philip and Joshua and sister Mary Jane.
On January 4, 1795 Paul Yeaton and Mary Hussey were married in Lebanon, Maine. There is a reference to Paul Yeaton in the History of Kennebec County, Maine by Henry D. Kingsbury and Simeon L. Deto, published in 1892. It states in the chapter on Belgrade the following: “The year 1816, which is remembered throughout New England as the cold season, brought special hardships to the people of Belgrade. Not even in the days of the first settlers, twenty-five years before, when hunting and fishing, as well as tilling the soil, were depended upon to furnish food, and when what few store supplies had were brought upon their backs many miles through the woods from Hallowell and Gardiner, was there more suffering or privation among the inhabitants.”
The crops were all failures, and less than 25 bushel of corn was raised in town. Paul Yeaton, who raised twelve bushels from several acres of land, was regarded as a wonderfully fortunate man. The snowstorm of June 12th drove the men from the fields, and snow began to fall again in October. The next spring the price of hay was 20 dollars a ton and higher; wheat 15 shillings a bushel; potatoes, 4 shillings; and corn 2 dollars.
These were exceedingly high prices for the times, and no less than a score of families in town, becoming discouraged fearing the cold season would be followed by another like it, moved away. Most of them moved to Ohio then regarded as the land of promise. There were 28 births in town during the cold season. Paul and Mary’s first two children were born in a log cabin in Belgrade. The third child, my great grandfather, Richard, was born September 22, 1799.
Great-Grandfather Richard Yeaton married Sabina Corson and raised fourteen children. The following item from an 1876 newspaper found in the wall of the old Winslow home in Manchester now Jacques’ Turkey Ranch, by John Wadleigh in 1957 and given to Bertha Bartlett: “The family of Capt. Richard Yeaton met at the homestead in Belgrade on Saturday July 29th. The family consisted of the father age 77 years, and the mother age 70 years and fourteen children and their wives and husbands, and thirty-four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, comprising a family of sixty-four members present. Capt. Yeaton and his wife have been married and lived on the same farm fifty-one years; and raised up a family of fourteen children.”
We know that my grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Yeaton, was born in Belgrade on August 13,1846 and was the twelfth child of Richard and Sabrina. Grandfather Yeaton (known as Frank) was nineteen at the close of the Civil War and twenty-seven when he and my grandmother, Ellen Mari Caswell were married. She was born in Belgrade on October 6, 1855 and was nine years younger than Grandfather.
At this gathering in 1876, just related to, were Grandfather, Grandmother, and there first two children Uncle Harry who was two years old having been born June 13, 1874 and Uncle Ralph 45 days old having been born June 4, 1876. The record shows that Harry and Ralph were born in Auburn; Clara and Edith were born in Belgrade; Richard and Albert in Augusta; and Earl in Windsor August 20, 1885.
We know from Grandfather’s own words that the family moved to what is now known as the Yeaton Place in Norridgewock on June 22, 1886. It was also documented that he moved from Augusta.
From the court document: “How long had you lived in Augusta?”
Mr. Yeaton: “I had lived in Augusta on and off most of the time or part of the time for 20 years.”
Question: “What do you mean by off and on?”
Mr. Yeaton: “Part of the time I worked in Augusta. I was married in Augusta. I went from there to Auburn, lived in Auburn 3 years, and I came back to Belgrade and bought a farm. I lived there some four years, was burned out of the Darley block in Augusta, in the fire in the winter of 1885 in January.”
The above mentioned words of Grandfather Yeaton were taken from a court document found in the Yeaton House under the eaves by my sister, Louise, while she was living in this house. These papers were in a very tight roll and after reading them she gave them to me. These particular papers are most interesting for they are of the March term of the 1889 Somerset County Probate Court. These proceedings took place in Skowhegan for Skowhegan stole the County seat from Norridgewock in 1872, Norridgewock having been the County seat since 1809 when Somerset County was set off from Kennebec. The Yeaton Place on the Sandy River was at one time in the Town of Starks but during Grandfather’s time became a part of Norridgewock.
My father, Ralph Hilton, told me that towns were originally laid out six miles square, in answer to my question about the location of a particular stone marker. It seems that the farmers on the East Side of the Sandy River got upset when they couldn’t get across the river for town meetings in the spring. This strip of farms along the East Side of the river about one half mile wide from the Kennebec River to the Mercer line, partitioned to be set over to the town of Norridgewock.
Grandfather was in court, on complaint of Owen G. Corson, administrator of the Estate of Benjamin F. Corson of Starks, for embezzlement. Minta S. Powers was appointed stenographer to take testimony. S. S. Brown appears for complainant, J.J.Parlin for respondent. It is shown by the court testimony that Grandfather and B.F. Corson had a verbal agreement, that Grandfather would come and make a home for B.F. Corson, called Uncle Franklin, as well as for himself and family. Although Grandfather tried to get a written agreement, he hadn’t succeeded. Uncle Franklin died in December of 1887 after Grandfather had been living there only a year and a half. This caused ill feelings on the part of the heirs; they thought Grandfather hadn’t earned what he was getting.
The daughters and sons of Ralph and Lora Hilton have the Corson Family on both sides of their Family Tree. Sabrina is our great-grandmother on our mother’s side and Betsy Corson, Sabrina’s youngest sister, is our great-great grandmother, on our father’s side. Betsy Corson and Theodore Holt were the parents of our great-grandmother, Melvina Holt Butler, the mother of H. Kate Butler Hilton.
Although this court case took place two years before our mother was born, I believe, from conversations with Mother, that some objected to Father’s courting Mother, but it wasn’t Melvina, for on one occasion she held a window open for Ralph, so he could be on his way and not have to confront others in the house. All Mother ever told me was that there was this lawsuit and that the court found in her father’s favor.
According to the court record Grandfather was living in Augusta in June 1886. His family included Ellen, his wife, and seven children. Harry was 12 years old that very June 13th; it is mentioned in the court proceedings that Grandfather had the help of a boy. The rest of the children were Ralph age 10, Clara ages 8, Edith age 6, Richard age 4, Earl Age 10 months. Grandfather says he was out in Mercer for a marble firm in Augusta, (probably as a traveling salesman). While in Mercer he made inquiries and found he was about three miles from his Uncles, Isaac Lyman (called Lyman) and Benjamin Franklin (called Franklin) brothers of his mother Sabrina.
Their place at that time was what was called an undivided farm. They each had their own house; they each occupied a part of the large barn. The intervals were divided by what Grandfather called a picked fence, mostly stumps. That night Grandfather stayed at his Uncle Lyman’s House and it seems that Franklin was also living at Lyman’s house. Lyman’s house was just south of the large barn and Franklin’s house was what is known as the Yeaton House. I remember the cellar hole for the Lyman house. I believe that house burned about the time I was born in 1923. I remember when Uncle Ben Yeaton bulldozed in the cellar hole.
Grandfather says, “I stayed over night and talked with Uncle Franklin”, that “Uncle Franklin wanted me to come and take his property, and make a home for him, myself and family, while he lived, after he got though I should have his property.” Also stated in the document was that Grandfather left the next forenoon, with the request from Uncle Franklin that he go home and talk it over with his wife and see if she would consent to his proposal. He was asked by the court if he talked to his Uncle Lyman about Franklin’s offer and this was his answer.
“After Uncle Franklin retired, Lyman says to me, “What has Brother Franklin on his mind tonight?” I said to him, that Uncle Franklin wants me to come here and take his property and take care of him; Lyman says to me, there have been two parties tried that before, he has had two men here before, and they didn’t stay. I said to him, is Uncle Franklin getting fussy? He says to me to ask the neighbors. We dropped the subject, I didn’t ask any neighbors.” Grandfather says in the testimony that he thought the two neighbors were Frederick Clark and Williamson.
According to my father, Ralph, Grandfather Yeaton always had very good driving horses. During this time, he had a seven-year-old colt. In court testimony he stated, “I left the next forenoon, stopped in Belgrade in the afternoon (probably to talk things over with his mother, Sabrina. Nothing like your mother who was, a good medium, at a time like this) then he headed home to Augusta, reaching home that night.” (No record, but a good distance for a horse.)
We don’t know just where in Augusta he lived. We know Earl was born in Windsor on August 20, 1885. Maybe they lived out of Augusta towards Windsor. (Phil Andrews says that his father and another fellow named Hill put their driving horses together on a sleigh took two girls to a dance in North Fryeburg returned the ladies home after the dance and then drove home. Phil and I measured the distance. We figured the mileage to be very close to 50 miles.)
Grandfather talked it over with Grandmother Ellen and they decided to accept the offer. They notified Uncle Franklin of their acceptance by mail. It was June 22, 1886 when the family moved into Uncle Franklin’s house. At this time, there had been 4 acres of corn planted.Uncle Franklin had let the corn planting to Oliver Otis and his brother. When asked by the court, “What personal property did he find there?”Grandfather said, “A two year old heifer, a horse, somewhere from 125 to 140 sheep and lambs, and 6 or 7 hens.
There was some old farming tools, a horse rake, an old mowing machine, a horse cart, a light buggy wagon, and two old harnesses of not much account either of them. The Court questioned him about the sheep a good deal. He said he had killed and eaten perhaps a dozen and some had died. He said he wintered 123. He said there was a pasture in Smithfield and he believed that parties who like sheep took some of them.
At that time he was told the farm was about two hundred acres, an undivided farm, and no legal division. When he cut wood Hartley, Lyman’s son, told him where to cut. There was a picked fence when he went there that divided the intervals, part of it being a stump fence and part a rail and stake fence. The first farming he did was to plant some potatoes in the cornfield, where the corn didn’t come.
That year he said they had cut about 20 tons of hay. Grandfather brought with him the seven-year-old colt mentioned, a cow, and his team of horses. Uncle Franklin sold his horse on May 4, 1887 to A. O. Frederick for $103.25. Grandfather said he went to Starks with $600, which he had withdrawn from the bank, plus about another $100 in cash.
Uncle Franklin died in December 1887. He was only sick about a week; undressed himself and went to bed; dying just after dusk. A great deal of questioning is given by the Court about all of Franklin’s papers and money, even a ten and a fifty cent piece that he had in his pants pocket. There was $120 for wool, which Franklin sold in Sept. or Oct. of 1887. It was money for the 84, 85, and the 86 clips. Grandfather sold and received the money for the clip of’ 87.
Grandfather tells the Court about spending his own money the first year on things to fix the house; a lot of glass needed replacing, especially in the house and stable. He had to buy hay and in Jan.1887 he bought a cow. He laid out $65 for materials to fix up the house and stable. There was an old barn on land in Smithfield; he took it down and moved it up in the spring of’ 87 for a sheep barn. He made repairs to the house such as plastering, papering, whitewashing, and carpeting. He bought window screening and made doorframes.
This barn that he moved was 30ft.by 44 ft. He had to put in 2 or 3 new sills and a couple of new beams; most of the roofing was all-new. He spliced all the posts and made the barn three feet higher than it was originally. Franklin furnished 6,000 of the shingles; Grandfather bought 8,000 from Samuel Harding of Norridgewock.
When asked if there was anything else that Franklin sold Grandfather tells about some hay that Franklin sold that was on the land at Smithfield to a John Smith for $10. This money was not collected. They agreed that they didn’t want to bring this hay onto the farm because it had whiteweed in it. (Whiteweed is a term used for white daisies) There were two notes, one for $100 to be paid with interest when called for by Hartley Corson and the other showing where Franklin had paid $69.14 a judgement rendered in the Supreme Judicial Court in Sept.1887 to Henry K. Sawyer as Administrator of the Estate of John H. Sawyer, Norridgewock October 3, 1887.
The Court Record ends with several pages of questions and answers about words that were exchanged between Grandfather and his Uncle Franklin, which took place in the summer of’ 87, when Franklin wanted to take the lambs off the sheep and Grandfather wanted to get his second cutting in. These papers tell nothing about the disposition of the case. As far as is known Grandfather won. How he got the other half of the farm, I do not know. Perhaps he purchased it from Hartley Corson.
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