A Mansfield from Barrettstown

By Elizabeth Hebert | Feb 18, 2016

I have lived in Maine a mere 15 months and it seems that nearly every day I am reminded that I am “from away.”

I still don’t really understand what “all stove up” means or why angry people are said to have a hair across their backsides.

Until recently, Lincolnville directions that involved turning at Petunia Pump left me just as confused as when I started.

And unlike my colleagues, I can still regularly shop at French & Brawn without running into anyone I know.

Yet, every once in a while, I encounter something that makes me feel that perhaps I’m not quite as much of a foreigner as I seem.

A couple of months ago, I was sent to cover a story in Hope and, as usual, I got a bit turned around on the back roads. As I drove up and down Hatchet Mountain Road, the GPS showed me that I was repeatedly passing a small body of water called Mansfield Pond.

It brought a smile to my face because I happen to know that Mansfield Pond is named after my great-great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Mansfield, who settled on 160 acres alongside that pond in 1789, back when Hope was still called Barrettstown.

On the second pass down Hatchet Mountain Road, I noticed Payson Path and wondered if perhaps it was named after the family of Jacob’s wife, Charity Payson.

My mother, an avid genealogist, armed me with a thorough accounting of our Maine roots before I moved to the state and the names she listed seem to pop up at odd times in my daily life.

My editor’s casual reference to the annual Kalloch family reunion reminded me that my great-great grandmother was named Jennie Kalloch. An archive article in The Courier-Gazette on the Thurston Brothers Casket Company in Union reminded me of Jennie’s husband, Joseph Thurston, who was one of the founders of the family business.

Among my mother’s genealogy notes was an article in The Camden Herald about my great-great grandfather, Daniel Hudson Mansfield, who could reportedly walk 9 miles in an hour and 45 minutes. I often think about that article because it proves that Camden Herald reporters as far back as 1879 stretched to come up with “news” just as I sometimes do in 2016.

As a newcomer to a state where all the locals seem to know each other and speak to each other in their own secret language, I occasionally feel like I’m trying to participate in a dance for which I don’t know all the steps; always a bit off balance and trying to catch up.

It helps me to remember that among all the strangers are likely dozens of distant cousins, descendants of Jacob and Charity Mansfield’s 18 children and their spouses, with names like Bowers, Hawes, Moore and Bennett.

Perhaps if they knew I was a member of the family they would teach me the dance.

Perhaps the spirits of Jacob and Charity hover above their weathered graves at Morey Hill Cemetery watching over me as I wander around, lost once more in the Hope countryside.

Perhaps Jacob turns to Charity and says: “Look at the girl, she’s all stove up again!”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.