Joseph Coleman (c1770-1852) of Bowdoinham, Maine & Wives Ruth Spurr and Hannah (Pottle?)

When I wrote about Joseph Coleman and Eunice Coffin a week or so ago, I mentioned how all the new documents turned my ideas about their lives upside down.

Well, those findings kind of did the same thing to my beliefs and wonderings about Joseph Coleman, their son, and my 4X great grandfather.

Joseph’s and Eunice’s son, Joseph, made his last appearance in the 1850 census:

Joseph Coleman with Daughter Elvira’s Family

Being quite aged, Joseph isn’t listed with any occupation. However, Maine, being wooded and lush with plants, brings to mind the idea that one might be a farmer and, in fact, many of the Prebles’ neighbors were farmers. (I’ll come back later to Dexter’s occupation as a brick mason.)

Many years ago, when I first investigated Joseph and his family, I found very limited records.

First, Joseph, who was living in Roxbury, Massachusetts at the time, married Ruth Spurr on 24 August 1793 in Roxbury.

Marriage of Joseph Coleman and Ruth Spurr, 1793

The Spurr family had settled in Dorchester in the 1600s and Ruth was born there on 2 September 1762, the daughter of John Spur and Rebecca Blackman.

Roxbury and Dorchester are actually neighboring communities, so Ruth wasn’t far from home when she was living in Roxbury.

Ruth was definitely a few years older than Joseph, as his birth year has ranged from 1768-1772. It was a bit unusual for the bride to be 4-10 years older than the groom, particularly for a first marriage.

It was also a bit of an anomaly that Joseph was the only Coleman to be found anywhere nearby (and it took mostly a process of elimination to figure out to which family Joseph belonged, but I digress.)

I also wondered how Joseph came to the decision to settle in Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine, which is where I originally thought they were headed after they married.

James Bowdoin of Dorchester sold to Joseph Coleman of BOWDOINHAM land for just five shillings in consideration of their friendship. (He was already a resident of Bowdoinham before he bought this land!) That doesn’t seem like a lot of money for 49 acres of land, which is what he purchased. It’s the equivalent of about $30 today.

Even more surprising to me was the fact that just two years later, Joseph sold this same piece of land to Joseph Robinson for $250, which seems to be a hefty profit.

The next surprise is that Joseph NEVER bought or sold another piece of land in Maine, in spite of appearing in each and every census from 1800 through 1850, with the exception of 1810!





If Joseph was a farmer, why wouldn’t he have bought more land? I can’t imagine him wanting to rent for half a century. His known sons didn’t buy a single piece of land in Maine either. How did they make their living?

That seems like a sure tip off that their occupations were something other than working the land. Plus, the family is missing in 1810. I don’t know if they were skipped or they were gone from the area. I’ve never found a clue about that.

Back to my topsy-turvy beliefs about the Joseph Coleman and Eunice Coffin family. Among the records I recently discovered are two land deeds recorded in New York by Joseph Coleman Jr., referencing the estate of his father, Joseph Coleman, deceased.

Orange County, New York Deed Book H: 357-360, 1802
Family Search

There is really only one important detail in this land transaction between Joseph Coleman, selling his share of his father’s estate, to his brother-in-law, Isaac Belknap on 4 February 1801:

The word is divided between two lines: MARINER! Joseph followed his father to a life at sea.

This put an entirely new perspective on Joseph’s life and it certainly explains the lack of land transactions during his lifetime. Although I have no idea if they were skipped or left the area, it could also explain why Joseph isn’t found in the 1810 census in Bowdoinham.

Joseph, I believe, was way more mobile that I ever believed, just as his father was also very mobile. Following the sea was definitely an advantage if one wanted to travel long distances!

The second land deed, filed at almost the same time although drawn up on 9 April 1796, confirmed the relationship of Joseph and his siblings. It’s a bit odd that their mother, Eunice, wasn’t mentioned, as she was living as of 1799.

Orange County, New York Deed Book H: 351-354

As with the first deed, the only important bits of information are that these are the heirs of Joseph Coleman and Tamar Birdsall, Jennet Watts and Mary Griswold are named with their respective husbands.

Joseph Coleman married twice. (1) Ruth Spurr was living as late as 19 December 1798, as she is named in the land deed when Joseph sold his only known piece of real estate.

Joseph’s households have always been a bit confusing, as they have members who appear to be too old to be their children. The 1800 census doesn’t have a female in Ruth’s age range, so it appears she died between 19 December 1798 and the 1800 census.

Joseph married (2) Hannah (Pottle?), no later than 1810 and perhaps as early as 1800 or 1801. Hannah’s birth year isn’t known. She predeceased Joseph, passing away on 6 September 1848. Her gravestone gives an age of 76 years, so born c1772. Census records support a birth from 1770-1780. If she was actually born in 1772, then the female aged 16-25 is too young to be her. Hannah may have been the sister of David Pottle, who lived 6 doors away from Joseph in 1800.

Silas Adams’ History of the Town of Bowdoinham 1762-1912  mentions that the First Free Will Baptist Church, organized 22 October 1825. On 26 September 1840, Joseph and John signed to organize a church which met at Abagadasset School House. Joseph was on the committee to choose a deacon. On 19 October 1840, the church meeting voted to dismiss Joseph, Hannah and John P. to the 4th Church, Raymond District.

Because no marriage record has been found for Joseph and Hannah, I also don’t know if Hannah was a widow when she married Joseph. Do all four of the children in the 1800 household belong to both Joseph and Hannah?

As to a source for Hannah’s maiden name, daughter Elizabeth’s death certificate names her parents as “Colburn” and “Potter.” There were no Colburn or Potter families in the area at the time when Joseph and Hannah would have married, but there was the family of David Pottle, which I mentioned earlier, and who lived 6 doors away from Joseph in 1800.

Because of this uncertainty and the lack of land records for Joseph and his children, the mothers of his children are uncertain. I’ve never been able to figure out who two of the sons and two of the daughters were either!

Children of Joseph Coleman:

NOTE: It is believed that all children were born in Bowdoinham. Thomas Coleman’s death certificate gave his place of birth as Richmond, Maine. However, Richmond was originally part of Bowdoinham and was set off as a new town on 23 February 1823.

  1. Joseph, born c1794; died 18 May 1830, Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine; married Abigail Sedgley (1795-1888), 28 December 1822, Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine
  2. Son, born c1798; died after 1810
  3. Daughter, born c1798; died after 1810
  4. Thomas, born 23 January 1800, Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine; died 9 May 1888, Calais, Washington, Maine; married Mary Elizabeth Astle, 22 June 1830, Nelson, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada
  5. Son, born c1802; died after 1810
  6. Daughter, born c1804; died after 1810
  7. Philip B(urril?), born 25 December 1805; died 21 January 1893, Whitestown, Oneida, New York; married Rachel Sedgley, 18 February 1826, Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine
  8. John P., born 25 April 1807; died 19 August 1864, Bowdoinham, Sagadahoc, Maine; married Sarah J. Potter, c1852, probably Maine. She was born c1834; died 1893; married (2) Leonard Preble, who lived next door to Dexter Preble, wife Elvira, child Lydia Ann and Joseph Coleman in 1850.
  9. Elvira, born between August 1809-1812; died 23 October 1886, Bowdoinham, Sagadahoc, Maine; married Dexter Preble, 1 October 1837, Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine
  10. Ruth, born between April 1811-1812; died 18 September 1887, Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts; married Ezra Morrill, 4 August 1834, Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts
  11. Elizabeth, born cFebruary 1814; died 24 December 1899, Richmond, Sagadahoc, Maine; married Sewell Preble, 24 October 1841, Bowdoinham, Lincoln, Maine

How did I eventually piece together Joseph the father with Joseph the son? That’s an entirely different story, which will soon be told.



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