Circa 1930 newspaper clipping about the discovery by Professor William Otis Sawtelle of important manuscript items in the Black Mansion at Ellsworth, Maine, now known as Woodlawn Museum, Gardens and Park.
Read a transcription at the end of this post - with apologies to the newspaper which originally published it. I don't think it was published in the Ellsworth American, as there's explanatory information that might not otherwise have been included. In addition, the clipping was found in the scrapbook of someone who appeared to live in either Dexter, Maine, or Skowhegan, Maine, or the area surrounding. The Ellsworth American editor kindly gave permission, just in case, and said she doubted any other editor would not do the same.
The papers relate to William Bingham (1752-1804), through his relationship with General David Cobb (1748-1830) and his son-in-law John Black (1781-1856), who were both agents for Bingham.
Bingham, for whom the Bingham Purchase is named, obtained vast swarths of Maine in the 1786 lottery put on by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and from sales by others, including General Henry Knox, whose wife inherited land from her grandfather Samuel Waldo. Read more on the Bingham Purchases here, on the website of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, including fascinating first hand accounts of surveyors in remote regions.
Matthew Edney wrote an interesting blog post about early mapping in Maine and New England, featuring maps showing the holdings of major landowners, including Bingham, Knox and William Duer [more below] and others, and a map of the townships between the Penobscot and Schoodic Rivers [the latter name would be a major controversy in the settling of the northeastern border] being offered in a 1786 lottery by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The newspaper clipping notes that the Black Mansion had recently been bequeathed to Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations by George Nixon Black, Jr. (1842-1928), "Nixon", a descendant of General David Cobb, through his daughter Mary (1776-1851) and her husband, John Black. The article notes that Cobb built the mansion in the late 1820s, but other sources credit the construction to John Black, which is more likely, since General Cobb, in ill health, had moved to Taunton, Massachusetts, in the early 1820s.
Subsequent to the purchase, Prof. Sawtelle, himself a member of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, had been asked by the board to search for "historical treasures" in the Black Mansion. He found a treasure trove with papers of and referencing many notables from the colonial and post-Revolutionary era, in addition to Bingham, Cobb and Black. Mentioned in the article:
- Thomas Willing (1731-1821) of Philadelphia, an associate of Robert Morris (1734-1806)
- General Henry Knox (1750-1806) - and a mention of a summer visit in 1796 by William Bringham and others to Knox's recently built mansion at Thomaston, Maine - "Montpelier", now the Knox Museum.
- General Henry Jackson (1747-1809), who was involved in the sales of tracts in Eastern Maine
- William Duer (1743-1799), Continental Congressman and land speculator, whose financial downfall may have precipitated the Panic of 1792.
- Alexander Baring (1774-1848) and brother Henry Baring (1777-1848), bankers and members of the board of trustees of the Bingham Purchase. Alexander Baring later became Lord Ashburton, who worked with Daniel Webster to define the northeastern border. Two adjacent towns in Maine area named for him: Alexander and Baring. Interestingly, Mary (Cobb) Black and John Nixon Black named one of their sons Alexander Baring Black.
- Effingham Buckley Morris (1856-1937) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; member of the board of the Bingham Purchase at the time the article was written
- Charles E. Ingersoll of Philadelphia, Pennsyslvania; member of the board of the Bingham Purchase at the time the article was written
- Hannibal Emery Hamlin (1858-1938) of Ellsworth, eastern agent at the time the article was published; son of former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin
- Madame Rosalie de la Val - she worked with General Henry Knox and William Duer to purchase land in eastern Maine for the resettlement of exiled French nobles; the article mentions the colony at Lamoine, Maine.