1870 Photo Mystery Solved – T. B. Ballard Is Going Home


c1870 Photo


Reverse Side

This is one of the several mystery photos I’ve inherited from the Tarbox side of my family. Every once in a while, I decide it is time to take another look at them to see if I can discover how and why my ancestors came to know these people.

This picture, which looks to be from around 1870, give or take a few years, is even signed on the back.

T.B. Bullard
Cushnoc House
Augusta Maine

At least, I thought it said T.B. Bullard, but Mr. Bullard had previously stumped me. This time, I decided to consider the surname Ballard – which was a reasonable effort given that the a at the end of Augusta was also open at the top.

Another clue is Cushnoc House, which I discovered was an early hotel established in Augusta in 1803.

I noted that Mr. Bullard/Ballard looked to be fairly well-to-do. His hair and beard are immaculately groomed and he is dressed to the nines in a very nice coat, shirt, tie, vest and trousers. Even though the photo is about 150 years old, his shoes still even have a shine to them.

The question here is how George Tarbox came to own this photo, when there are no known Ballard/Bullard family connections.

First, George traveled by land and by sea. He was a business man who commissioned a couple of sailing ships and he owned a granite quarry in Red Beach, Maine, which today is part of the city of Calais.

He married his first wife, Deborah Grover, in 1846 in Lowell, Massachusetts and married his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Scripture, in 1848 in Nashua, New Hampshire and they started their family in Newburyport, Massachusetts. His parents and grandparents settled in New Gloucester, Maine, where George was born.

The guy definitely got around! Here is my theory. On one of George’s trips, he stayed the night at the Cushnoc House hotel in Augusta and made the acquaintance of another businessman, Thomas Benton Ballard. Mr. Ballard offered George one of his business cards, which is the carte de visite pictured in this post. George eventually made his way back home, telling Mary about Mr. Ballard. The young Mr. Ballard must have made an impression on George since he held on to the CDV, which was passed on to his daughter, Nellie, then to daughter Pearl, to her son Charles and finally to me, his 3X great grandchild.

The distance from Calais to, say, Boston, is long – over 400 miles, but look at the city that sits directly along the highway:


Calais to Boston

Augusta, Maine is not quite half way from Calais to Boston, but it would be a convenient stopping over point for George Tarbox in his travels.

Now, back to the story of T.B. Bullard. I also decided I needed to guess at a first name for Mr. Bullard/Ballard, since initials don’t sit well with certain search engines. Thomas seemed to be the most reasonable guess, although the T could have stood for Timothy or Theodore or who knows what else.

My first search was for Thomas B. B*ll*rd, born 1835-1845 who lived in Augusta, Maine in 1870, which is about when I think the picture was taken. Up came Thos B. Ballard, born c1839, who was the head of a household consisting of himself, Carrie Ballard, aged 24, presumably his wife, and Phebe Ballard, aged 72, presumably his mother. Look at his occupation and the rest of the “household”:


Thomas B. Ballard, Hotel Keeper, 1870
Source: Ancestry

He is a hotel keeper and there is a list of the lodgers living there when the census taker came around!

My ultimate goal was to gift this photo to a descendant of Thomas B. Ballard so I searched for a marriage record for Thomas and Carrie.


Marriage of Thomas Ballard to Caroline M. Day, 1866, Boston, MA
Source: FamilySearch

Thomas P. (sic) Ballard, hotel keeper from Augusta, Maine married Caroline M. Day on 28 January 1866 in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a first marriage for both.

Next stop was the 1880 census, which produced one hit for Thos. B. Ballard, hotel keeper:


Thos. B. Ballard, 1880 census list

Wait a minute! This looks to be “my” Thomas Ballard and he is living in Augusta and is enumerated as a hotel keeper, but at first glance, this is some type of list, but not of families. Wife Carrie isn’t with him, nor are any other Ballards. Then I scrolled to the top of the page:


Page Header, 1880 Census

This enumeration took place at the Maine Insane Hospital, located in Augusta, and these people are all patients there!

What happened???

I don’t know and probably never will. However, there are three more records left by Thomas and wife Carrie.


Carrie M. Ballard, 1880 Boston, MA Census
Source: Ancestry

I only know that Thomas entered the hospital sometime between the 1870 and 1880 censuses. In 1880, Carrie was living back in Boston, boarding in a home. She was reported as married, so she and Thomas apparently didn’t divorce. Thomas was also enumerated as married.

By 1900, Carrie was living in a blended household that included her widowed sister and widowed mother in Malden, Massachusetts.


1900 Malden, Massachusetts

There is an indication in this census that Thomas and Carrie experienced a lot of heart break during their marriage. Carrie reported that she had given birth to four children, but none were living in 1900. Whether or not losing their children led to Thomas’s hospitalization is impossible to say.

Carrie never remarried. In fact, she died just a year later on 26 August 1901 in Malden of apoplexy, or a stroke. She wasn’t quite 55 years old.

What became of Thomas Benton Ballard? I wish this story had a happier ending, but Thomas died on 29 August 1881 in Augusta, presumably while still hospitalized.

Thomas and Carrie Ballard have no living descendants, but his photograph is being welcomed home by the Kennebec Historical Society in Augusta.

The Ballard family settled in Augusta, Maine very early on and there are still some descendants living in Kennebec County today. The historical society said they would love to have the photo of Thomas, so it has been mailed back to Maine after all these years.

Did you notice Thomas’s death date – 29 August 1881? He died 136 years ago today.

Thomas Benton Ballard, 8 August 1838 – 29 August 1881
Caroline Mary Day Ballard, 23 September 1846 – 26 August 1901
R.I.P.

UPDATE: Mr. Ballard’s photo safely arrived at its new home with the Kennebec County Historical Society. The society librarian, Mr. E. Bruce Kirkham provided a bit more information about the Ballards and the Cushnoc House. Both Thomas and his brother, Jabez, actually owned the hotel. A notice in the Weeky Kennebec Journal. V41 N51, page 2, column 6 and dated 8 December 1865 noted that T.B. Ballard had assumed ownership of the Cushnoc House. Sadly, the old hotel burned down on 13 September 1892.

5 thoughts on “1870 Photo Mystery Solved – T. B. Ballard Is Going Home”

  1. Linda, congrats on solving the mystery! And this is a wonderful step-by-step “how to” with a good ending to your story, putting the photo in the welcoming arms of the historical society.

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