Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry continues her series on Mayflower descendants, with more on the Garcelon family of Maine. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.
May our Rulers not falter, for the people are with them in this great struggle of Liberty against Slavery.
–Alonzo Garcelon letter to Gov. Israel Washburn, 24 April 1861
Today I continue with my series “Mayflower Descendants: Who’s Who” focusing more on the Garcelon family of Lewiston, Maine. A descendant living in Maine, David Garcelon, historian, author, and surveyor, has graciously offered his family photographs for these stories. David is a direct descendant of Mayflower passengers John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, and William Bradford.
You may view his lineage and background in my earlier story: Mayflower Descendants, Part 33 (part1)
David’s great grandfather Dr. Alonzo Garcelon (1813-1906) was a prominent figure in Lewiston and loved the history and people of his town.
Garcelon Field at Bates College is named after Dr. Garcelon, as is the Alonzo Garcelon Society, which provides scholarships to Bates for local students. In 2008 the Garcelon family announced the donation of a large collection of Garcelon family manuscripts to the Bates College Special Collections Library.
Like his Pilgrim forefathers, Alonzo was industrious, inventive, patriotic, and possessed a deep sense of service to his community.
One of the obituaries I found on Alonzo was published in the Boston Herald on 9 December 1906. It featured photo images and highlighted his political career.
The headline’s claim that Alonzo died by gas was proven wrong, and corrected in later news clips.
Alonzo was 93 years old when he passed away. His eulogy address was given by William De Witt Hyde, the seventh president of Bowdoin College, where Alonzo studied medicine.
It would take a short novel to cover the life narrative on this man, but here are a few of his many accomplishments.
Alonzo was the 36th governor of Maine, served as mayor of Lewiston, and was a member of the Maine House of Representatives.
Besides his political service, Alonzo was a successful physician and worked in private practice well into his late 80s. it was well known that he would think nothing to travel 20 miles in his horse and buggy to treat a patient no matter the weather.
He was a founding member of the Maine Medical Board, American Medical Association, and was chair of many medical societies. He was noted for his many medical advancements.
He was also one of the founders of Maine State Seminary, later Bates College in Maine.
In addition, Alonzo was the owner and editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal, formed with his brother-in-law William H. Waldron.
When Lewiston’s population grew along with many surrounding towns, Alonzo took an interest in helping develop safe and reliable transportation, roadways, and energy supply.
In 1849 he, along with Josiah Little, became the incorporators of the Lewiston Falls Village Corp. and formed a fire company for the towns of Lewiston, Auburn, and Danville. While the firehouses were being constructed the fire engines were housed in the stables at Alonzo’s farm.
He organized a road construction company with Ebenezer Ham to meet the needs of new streets and roadways. He served as president of the Androscoggin Railroad Co. and the Lewiston Gas Light Co.
During the Civil War Alonzo served with distinction as Surgeon General of Maine. Here is a clip published in the Lewiston Evening Journal which relates to his work.
This article reported:
Some three hundred sick soldiers from Gen. Pope’s army came down in the [railroad] cars yesterday from Culpepper. They were in [the] charge of Dr. Alonzo Garcelon, Surgeon General of the State of Maine, and widely known as one of the ablest surgeons in New England. In going the rounds of our armies attending to the interests of the Maine soldiers, he happened at Culpepper at the time of the late battle, and seeing what was needed, threw off his coat, and with characteristic promptness and energy, was soon doing yeoman service in his professional line.
He has since had charge of the Piedmont Hospital, and bears testimony to the kindness of the people of Culpepper in furnishing everything that laid in their power for the relief of our sick and wounded.
While Alonzo was a surgeon general, he and many other brave men in Maine serving in the Union Army assisted slaves to escape and safely reach New England.
Among them was a young teenager, John H. Nichols, whose first-hand account of escaping slavery was published in the Lewiston Illustrated Magazine on 16 April 1921.
In this article Nichols relates how he came to Maine:
“I came to Maine at the close of the war with a party of colored men brought by Dr. [Alonzo] Garcelon [who had been an army surgeon]. He was in Lewiston [Maine] at the time and was anxious to get a colored man and woman to work on his farm. Some of his friends also wanted to get colored men. These were Dr. Kilbourne and Dr. Oakes of Auburn, [and] Dr. Martin and Dr. Bradford of Lewiston, and Dr. Garcelon undertook to bring on several ex-slaves from the South.
“This he did as he had the power to get them a free pass North. Garcelon was very kind to us when we reached Lewiston. He picked Bill Davis and his wife himself while I went to Colonel Ham and later to Dr. Martin. It was a good thing for us all to come to Lewiston, although I should like to go back to the old plantation once more before I die. I have an idea that I should see some of my old slave friends and it would be a wonderful meeting.”
Here is the marriage record for Nichols from the Portland Press in 1873.
This article reported:
In this city, Sept. 25, at Monntfort Street A. M. E. Church, by Rev. C. M. Mossell, John H. Nichols of Lewiston and Miss Maggie E. Brooks of Portland.
Nichols and his wife raised 10 children. He prospered and lived in Lewiston for about 60 years. He died in Boston in 1931 at his daughter’s home.
To be continued…
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Note on the header image: Alonzo Garcelon (1813-1906), son of William Green Garcelon and Mary Davis. Courtesy of David Garcelon of Maine. He is a surveyor, historian and author.