The origin of Greene Plantation: Belmont, Searsmont and Morrill

By Isabel Morse Maresh | Jan 30, 2014

The Plantation of Greene, owned by David Sears, Israel Thorndike and William Prescott, was once part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The area was six or more miles inland, according to where you were. When the first settlers came, Native Americans were still residing on the land.

When the 1800 Census was enumerated, the area was called “Plantation of Quantabacook, west of Belfast,” then in Hancock County, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At that time, there were twenty families in the Plantation, comprising one hundred and eighteen “souls”. Part of Searsmont was also called the Plantation of Bonaparte. The settlers had come to an untamed wilderness from New Hampshire, Kennebec, Damariscotta and other places. Some of the names were Alexander, Ames, Babcock, Bagley, Bennett, Bickford, Bicknell, Black, Braddock, Brewster, Clark, Cobb, Crooks, Cross, Cunningham, Daggett, Dickey, Dolloff, Donnell, Dunton, Edgecomb, Elms, Evans, Farrow, Flagg, Fletcher, Fowles, Fox, Frohock, Ginn, Gray, Greer, Hall, Heal, Hemenway, Higgins, Hills, Hook, Hunt, Jackson, Johnson, Jordan, Ladd, Lawry, Littlefield, Lothrop, Lyons, Mahoney, Mariner, McLain, Moody, Morrison, Muzzy, Ness, Ordway, Pease, Phillips, Pitcher, Poor, Pottle, Prescott, Richards, Robbins, Stewart, Swift, Thomas, Thompson, Tilden, Toothaker, Tower, True, Wellman, Weymouth, White, Woodcock, Woodman, Wyman and so many, many others.

A story was told in Timothy W. Robinson’s "History of Morrill, Maine," about Nathaniel Tilden, who had been a soldier of the Revolutionary War and came with his family about 1797, near the pond that bears his name. He thought that they were “beyond civilization” when early one morning he heard a rooster crowing. He took his family, and his axe with which he “spotted” the trees following the crowing, until he came upon a new clearing. The woman in the new homestead was pleased to see another family. She gave his children some bread and butter, and then excused herself because it was the Sabbath, and she could not entertain them. Another settler, who did not know that anyone else was near, heard the chopping of trees in the distance.

The first white child born in the settlement was James, son of Daniel Dolloff, who had come from New Hampshire. Joseph Muzzey of Spencer, Mass. with his wife, Sally, arrived in what is now Searsmont, coming up by the Georges River, following a trail of “spotted trees”, marked by a previous sojourner, and settled on what is now Muzzey Ridge in Searsmont. He and his family are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Searsmont, with a tall obelisk, and a row of smaller gravestones in a circle around the large monument.

Settlers continued to arrive. Nathaniel Cross with his sons, David and Joseph from Exeter, N.H. settled in what is now Morrill. There are many tales to be told of the early settlers, such as John Gray who brought apple scions to graft trees, where he settled in Belmont.

The Plantation continued to prosper, as more and more settlers arrived. It was divided into two towns, named Belmont and Searsmont, which were then incorporated separately, by an Act of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, approved by the governor on Feb. 5, 1814 .

The early settlers struggled with their daily lives, clearing land, building the formidable stone walls which still stand — attesting to their feats of strength, sweat and tears to build a home in the wilderness — and eventually to build a town. Every member of the family worked from sun-up to sun-down. The wives and others made clothing — even weaving the material to make the clothing — and fed their families from meager food supplies. The Annals of Warren cited a year that the crops did not prosper. Seed potatoes had been saved for planting. The family was so hungry that the potatoes were dug up, and only the "eyes" were planted.

In the early records, rarely was a woman mentioned, except as a school mistress or a widow, as they were considered "chattel". The paupers, families who were struggling more than normal, were "bound out" to a more prosperous family in the town. They were treated as slaves, and not even given the ability to claim the crops that they might grow.

In 1855, the settlers in North Belmont were grumbling about the fact that they were not included in town affairs. Transportation in those days was either by horseback or by walking. Not many could afford the luxury of horse transportation. The people petitioned to the Senate and House of Representatives to be set off from the town of Belmont and incorporated as a separate town. One of the complaints was that it was too far to go to attend meetings dealing with town issues. On March 3, 1855, Anson P. Morrill, governor of the state of Maine, approved the petition. The town was name after Governor Morrill.

History records that an earthquake was felt in the state a month before the separation of Belmont and Morrill. Two months after the separation, the store of John Crawford burned at Belmont Corner. Crawford was the town clerk of Belmont, and all of the town records were destroyed in the fire. An early town record book of Searsmont was returned to the town in 2012, after being missing for nearly a century. Belmont has no early records; therefore neither has Morrill. It is not known if they have been destroyed by fire or other means, or perhaps still exist in the attic, cellar, barn or shed of some old farmhouse in Maine or another state. Belmont records were in existence in 1929, when The Republican Journal issued its centennial issue. Sometimes a town clerk, who had the records in their home and held the office for many years, felt that the records belonged to them, and did not pass them over. (The state law is that the records belong to the town in which they originated, and should be returned.)

After the separation of Morrill from Belmont, Belmont had no settled church. Newspaper clippings showed that meetings were sometimes held in schoolhouses. The gravestones and obituaries gave evidence that the citizens of the towns had a deep religious faith.

The three sister towns each have a historical society. The citizens of former Greene Plantation owe a depth of gratitude to the historians, reporters and photographers who over the years have recorded our past. What happens today is tomorrow’s history. There have been dedicated students of history who have struggled and kept the faith of holding the historical societies together. They invite those of whom are interested in the early settlement of the area, to come out and join the organizations. You can belong to as many organizations as you choose to.

In 1906, George Santayana wrote in "Reason In Common Sense," “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Daniel McCullough wrote, “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”

Among the early publications that published early history were "The History of Morrill, Maine," Cyrus Eaton’s "Annals of Warren,"John Langdon Sibley’s "1851 History of Union, Maine," "The Histories of Belfast, Maine," "The Town Register of 1907" of the towns of Lincolnville, Northport, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Waldo, Maine, and other local publications. These have been used in writing this narration of the early history.

Happy birthday, Belmont! Happy birthday, Searsmont!

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