Thursday, January 14, 2021

DAVID W. LEAVITT And His Legacy For The Residents Of Parsonsfield, Maine

   David Willard “D.W.” Leavitt (1880-1948) was born in Parsonsfield, the first son of Albert R. (1845-1924) and Nellie M. Leavitt.  Albert was active in Parsonsfield town affairs as were several others of the Leavitt family, although it seems that the many Leavitts in Parsonsfield were not all closely related.   The Albert Leavitt farm where David was born is still located on Middle Rd. north west of the village. D. W.’s brother, Forest Parks Leavitt and sister, Deborah (Leavitt) Kimball also lived nearby.  It appears that they eventually lived in Florida in the winter and came to Parsonsfield in the summer.

The Albert R. Leavitt farm on Middle Road where D. W. Leavitt was born.

It was later used as a summer home.

   D.W., as he was commonly called, married Bessie Gaylord Leavitt of Boston.  She had spent summers at the Josiah Colcord place near the Leavitt farm.  They had 3 children, Albert Willard (1903-1957), Helen (Leavitt) Mason and Dorothy (Leavitt) Chilton.  D.W. and Bessie divorced later in life and each remarried.  D.W. had another child, Bobbie Rosalind Leavitt, by his second wife.

D.W. Leavitt became known for assembling what is referred to as the Leavitt Plantation which he started in 1932.  He had been interested in development of woodland and in modern forestry practices since the early 1920’s.  He gradually expanded his woodland holdings over the years, buying some 30 abandoned farms to add to the Leavitt property.  He planted trees in all the open spaces, which became the plantation, and he had a dream of eventually planting the entire area.

After Leavitt’s death in 1948, his son, Albert W. Leavitt, took over management of the enterprise.  Fred N. Leavitt of North Parsonsfield, a distant relative, was superintendent from 1938 to 1957 and became manager in 1957 after Albert Leavitt’s death, serving in that capacity until the sale of the property. 


In 1960 7,500 acres of timberland from the plantation was sold to S.D. Warren Co. who continued to manage the land as a demonstration forest.  

Documentation in the file at Parsonsfield Town office provides the following information:

The next owner was UBS Brinson, a timber investment management organization. In 2000 it was learned that Brinson was considering subdividing the entire plantation into 13 parcels to be sold at auction. At that time a movement began to seek a way to protect the Plantation from being split up and developed. About 2001 Renewable Resources, LLC, a similar timber investment management organization, purchased the land and negotiations were started to form a conservation easement agreement with them and any future owner to preserve the land forever.

A long period of negotiation and a huge fundraising effort finally brought about the final agreement on April 9, 2003 at a cost of $2,600,000. The final conservation easement agreement with Renewable Resources, LLC was for an 8,600 acre tract (not all contiguous) making up about 22% of Parsonsfield’s land area. An additional 1,100 acres had been added to the original plantation of 7,500 acres.

The “Maine Department of Conservation – Nature Conservancy” coordinated and raised funds for the project with the help of several other sources: “Land for Maine’s Future Program”, “Federal Forest Legacy Program”, “Maine Dept. of Conservation”, the Town of Parsonsfield with donations from residents and friends, a grant from “North American Wetlands Conservation Act”, and “Maine’s Outdoor Heritage Fund”.

This Federal & State partnership allows the landowner to keep their land private while ensuring it remains forest forever through the use of the conservation easement.

Following are some of what the conservation easement provides:

Even if the land is sold in the future, this easement will permanently guarantee it cannot be developed, thereby ensuring it will continue to provide the natural resource values that exist (e.g. timber production, wildlife habitat protection, etc.).

There can be no residential and commercial development on the property, ensuring that it remains as an unfragmented forest parcel. The large 8,300 acre parcel can be divided into no more than 2 parcels. The Pendexter Brook parcel (300 acres) will remain its current size.

The landowner has the right to manage the property for forest products under a forest management plan that will be reviewed and approved by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

The public is still allowed to use the property for non-motorized recreation activities including hunting, fishing & hiking and appropriate motorized recreational use will be allowed on designated snowmobile trails and town rights of way.

The Town can still utilize a limited amount of gravel on an annual basis for maintaining town roads.

The landowner will still pay taxes to the Town of Parsonsfield under the Tree Growth Tax Program.

The Bureau of Parks and Lands was to establish a stewardship fund to provide the resources to ensure that the easement is monitored periodically and enforced and to meet annually to review the previous year’s activity.

In 2006 ownership of the Plantation changed hands to Heartwood Forestland Fund V Limited Partnership from Chapel Hill, No. Carolina. Two smaller lots were sold to individuals. Of course the Conservation Easement still applies.

Leavitt Plantation today – shaded areas.

It is claimed that this is still the largest contiguous block of sustainably managed forest in single ownership in southern Maine and provides high-value forest products that support the regional economy.

Friday, January 1, 2021



The Parsonsfield-Porter Historical Society wishes all of you best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year in 2021.

May this awful pandemic soon end and all the difficulties associated with 2020 be just a memory.  We look forward to opening History House once again and to resuming our meetings, programs and activities for you to enjoy once all of Covid 19 is gone or at least under control.

We want everyone to have their lives back!  In the meantime, stay safe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020



"Maine can claim perhaps the best Christmas first: the first Christmas, in 1604. It happened on St. Croix Island, the lost French colony of Maine.

St. Croix Island, now on the border between New Brunswick and Maine, was settled by a small band of Frenchmen headed by Sieur DeMons. Samuel Champlain served as historian and navigator. The expedition included thieves from Paris prisons and noblemen from the court of Henry IV, Catholic priests and Huguenot ministers, artisans, merchants and sailors.

The Frenchmen arrived in June, almost three years before Jamestown started. They built a fort, houses and a handmill, and they planted gardens and a field of rye.

On Christmas day, the French colonists, all men, attended services in a new chapel. They probably held two, one for the Protestants, one for the Catholics.

Then they gathered inside next to a roaring fire, told stories, joked and reminisced about France. They had a feast — perhaps roast venison or rabbit stew.

The St. Croix settlement did not last. Most of the men were felled by a mysterious disease – probably scurvy. By spring they decided to move, packed up their houses and moved to Port Royal, which is now Annapolis." 

- New England Historical Society

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Holiday Greetings from PPHS

Here is a bit of holiday history...

According to the internet, this is the first commercially printed Christmas card. This Victorian era-scene, produced in 1843, was emblazoned with the traditional wishes of a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you”.

But some 19th Century viewers were far from happy at the imagery which depicted an English family toasting glasses of red wine as a little girl sips from a woman’s cup.

A leading group of puritanicals were quite distressed that in this ‘scandalous’ picture they had children toasting with a glass of wine along with adults and began a campaign to censor and suppress it.  

They kicked up such a fuss over the picture that it took three years before another Christmas card was produced.

 Best Wishes for the Happiest of Holidays from the

Parsonsfield-Porter Historical Society!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Porter Moultons

 In his History of Porter, written in 1957, William Teg tells us that “On May 22, 1792 a young man from Hampton, N.H. called at the home of Meshach Libby – his name was David Moulton.  In short, he came, he saw, he conquered – he bought the Libby Homestead.  The price?  ‘Sixty pounds, lawful money.’  David departed, but returned on April 27, 1793 to take possession of his property.” 

Meshach Libby, it should be remembered, was the first permanent settler in Porterfield Plantation as was covered in an earlier blog this year.  The red arrow shows the location of the homestead -  M. S. Moulton in 1875.

One of David Moulton’s sons, Thomas, chronicled his family in 1873  in which he wrote this of his father, David, who was born June 18, 1760 and married Dorothy Moulton of Portsmouth, N.H. 

To their family David and Dorothy added six children, all born in Porter:

          John, born December 1794;

          Joseph, born July 1797;

          Sarah, born December 1799;

          David Jr., born August 1802;

          Mary, born January 1805; and

          Thomas, born August 1810.

The Census of 1820 enumerated 7 individuals in the Moulton household who are presumed to be:

1 Male over 45 – David (age 60);       1 Female over 45 – Dorothy (age 50);

1 Male 16 to 25 – Joseph (age 23);       1 Female 16 to 25 – Sarah (age 21);

1 Male 16 to 18 – David Jr. (age 18);     1 Female 10 to 15 – Mary (age 15).

1 Male 10 to 15 – Thomas (age 10);

 Only the oldest son John, at age 26, no longer remained in his father’s home in 1820.  Where he was at that time we do not know, but from his youngest brother Thomas’ aforementioned Genealogical Registry we know that he was by then already making his own way in the world:

David Moulton died in October 1838 and the 1840 Census shows the John Moulton household at that time containing 10 individuals.  His immediate family only accounts for 6 of them:

          1 Male 40 to 49 – John (age 46);

                               2 Males 5 thru 9 – James Coffin (born 1830);                                          and Moses Sweat (born 1833);

          1 Male under 5 – John Jr. (born 1835)

          1 Male 15 to 19 – UNKNOWN;

          2 Females 30 to 39 – Jane (age 39) and UNKNOWN;

          1 Female 15 to 19 – UNKNOWN;

          1 Female under 5 – Sarah Jane (born 1826 and died later in 1830);

          1 Female 60 to 69 – Possibly the widowed Dorothy Moulton? 

In 1850 the members of the household, now all listed by name, were:         




John Moulton




Jane Moulton




Jas C Moulton




Moses S Moulton




John Moulton



The matriarch, Dorothy, at age 80;

          John, age 55;

          Jane, age 49;

          James Coffin, age 20;

          Moses Swett, age 17; and

          John Jr., age 15.

 Dorothy died in January 1853 and was laid to rest beside her husband David in the Kezar Falls Burying Ground.

As they achieved adulthood, John and Jane’s remaining 3 children began to make their way in the world. 

·       James Coffin, after beginning his education in local schools, went on to Fryeburg Academy, Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, then after studying law in Illinois moved on to Minnesota and Missouri. 

·       John Jr. also removed to Minnesota in 1855 where he also was employed in the law prior to his service during the Civil War 1861 – 1865.  He remained in Minnesota after the war engaged in the lumber business. 

Only their middle son, Moses Swett, remained behind.  He married Armine Tibbetts in March 1856.  She was, coincidentally, the sister of Lydia Frances Tibbetts married to Jordan Stacy 2nd and subject in a previous blog on the Stacy family. 

The 1860 Census reflected the changing dynamics of the household.  In addition to John and Jane; Moses, Armine, and their 2 year old son Roscoe Norton; the family included John’s 2 unmarried siblings 60 year old Sarah and 50 year old Thomas. 

The 1870 Census found the family changed only by the addition of a daughter, Jennie, born in 1864 as well as a woman named Anna Libby, 71 years old without occupation.

Thomas Moulton, listed in the census record above as “Retired Senator” had a long life of public service and was a prodigious record keeper.  Many of his papers are housed at our History House and provide an invaluable glimpse into the period.  He is best known for authoring the original History of Porter in 1879 which was the major source for Teg’s History written in 1957. He chronicled not only the genealogical record of his family previously cited but also hand wrote a detailed history of his own life.  In it he wrote of what must have been one of the shining achievements of his career:

It is obvious that public service ranked high with this family.  Thomas says this about his nephew, Moses Swett, in his genealogical record.

By the time of the 1880 Census the head of household had changed with the death of John in 1876.  Son, Roscoe, at age 22 listed physician as his occupation that year, having studied medicine at Bowdoin College.  He went on to graduate from Columbia University in 1882 before establishing a practice in Boston.  He died the following year in July 1883 of diphtheria.Bowdoin College and the Medical School of MaineBowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine

The household was dwindling.   Jane Moulton died in 1882 as did Aunt Sarah followed by Uncle Thomas in 1888.  Moses Swett died in 1895 joined by his wife, Armine, 2 years later in 1897. 

At some time during this period Jennie Moulton moved from her childhood home into the village of Kezar Falls.  She lived just down the street from her Aunt Lydia Frances Stacy and they must have enjoyed living near enough to visit often.

                     School Street: top arrow shows her Aunt Lydia Stacy’s home,                                   bottom arrow showing Jennie’s home.

Lydia Frances Stacy, Jennie Moulton Peare & Alice Mason in front of Jennie’s home at 32 School Street, Kezar Falls Village. 

On December 1, 1908 Jennie, at the age of 44, married Albetus Henry Peare, minister of the Riverside Methodist Church and the Ossipee Valley Weekly described her is this way in their write-up of the wedding.

By 1910 her husband had been posted at a church in Conway, New Hampshire as shown in the Census of 1910 and 1920.  She died in January 1923 returning one last time to the town of her birth when she was laid to rest at the Kezar Falls Burying Ground beside her other family members.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

400th Anniversary of the Mayflower Voyage

As we look toward Thanksgiving we are reminded that 2020 marks not only the 200th anniversary of Maine statehood but also the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage and the founding of Plymouth Colony.

Plymouth Colony was the second permanent English settlement in America.  Fisherman and traders had been traveling up and down the Atlantic Coast of North America for years and some had even attempted permanent settlements.  But only one colony had survived - Jamestown, Virginia settled in 1607.  The original Jamestown colonists, all men, had come to North America mainly to make money and find adventure while many of the founders of the Plymouth colony were members of the English Separatist Church. The separatists were Puritans, Protestant Christian fundamentalists who believed in a literal reading of the Bible, who wanted to see the Church “purified” of any non-biblical aspects such as clergy wearing vestments, the use of incense and music in worship, and adherence to the Book of Common Prayer. The separatists differed significantly from other Puritans, however, since they believed the church was corrupt, could not be saved, and true believers needed to separate themselves from it.

However there was a big problem.  The Church of England was the country’s official religion.  The leader of the church and the leader of England were the same person – King James I.  To break away from the Church of England was to break away from England itself.  Not surprisingly, the king did not look kindly on the Separatists.  One group in Scrooby, a little town in Nottinghamshire, England began to look for a place where they could live and worship freely.  They decided to move to Holland where the government allowed more freedom of religion but, because they did not have the required official permission to leave England, they had to leave in secret.

In 1609 they finally managed to settle in Leiden, Holland where they lived and practiced their religion openly for 12 years.   Life was not easy there however.  They were, after all, living in a foreign country with its own language and customs.  As immigrants many had to work at jobs that paid poorly and required hard labor.  They began to consider another move and North America seemed promising.  They decided to head for what was then the very north of Virginia – the area around what is now New Jersey.

After securing English investors to pay for their journey they bought a small ship, the Speedwell, to take them across the Atlantic Ocean.  On July 21, 1620 they said goodbye to their friends in Holland.  One of their leaders, William Bradford, later wrote,

            “So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims.”

Before setting out for North America the pilgrims had to first return to England to meet with the settlers signed up by the investors.  These settlers had hired their own ship, the Mayflower.  That turned out to be a very fortunate thing because, after twice attempting to leave for North America and having to turn back when the Speedwell developed leaks, they left that ship behind.

The loss of the Speedwell, which had been carrying around 70 passengers, necessitated the transfer of 20 of them to the already cramped Mayflower while many who should have gone on the voyage remained behind. This event clearly impacted the passengers’ voyage across the Atlantic for the worse but, at the same time, forced the Leiden separatists into close quarters with others they called Strangers who they were forced to interact with instead of separating themselves from. The trip across, intended to be made only by the congregation in two ships, became a kind of melting pot aboard the Mayflower.   

One hundred and two passengers made up the passengers of the Mayflower on its trip across the ocean. 

 The trip took sixty-seven days.  The ship was often tossed about in storms and rough water.  Most passengers were seasick.  All were wet and miserable.  One of the travelers died on the ocean crossing just three days before they arrived in Plymouth and one child was born – a boy named Oceanus Hopkins.  Four more died as the ship was anchored in Plymouth Harbor.

On November 9, 1620 the Mayflower sighted land – at Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  Bradford wrote of the Pilgrims, They were not a little joyful.”

But they were too far north. The captain tried to turn the ship but ran into rough waters and decided to land.  They did not, however, have permission from England to settle this far north.  Until they could get the documents they needed from England, they would have to take matters into their own hands.

So, while still on board the Mayflower, they wrote a document for every head of a household to sign. The signers pledged to be loyal to the king of England, but they also agreed to follow the wishes of the community.  The document reads:

“IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.  IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.