Lincolnville was home to a multi-talented man who made his way to San Francisco when it was a fledgling city.

Much of the biography of Frederick Osborne Young, commonly called F. O. Young, was written in his own words — in letters that he wrote to relatives, newspaper clippings as told to reporters, and in pages of his diaries of 1922, which were in the possession of a relative, Gus Ossman.

F. O. Young’s life story has been written about in Lincolnville Historical Society’s publications, and in the Young Genealogical Workbook, in 1991 by Donald L. Young, Jackie (Young) Watts and Isabel Morse Maresh.

Yet, there are those who have never heard of him, and how he overcame many, many obstacles in his life. Here is his story, much of it as told by him:

I was born in “Youngtown” in Lincolnville, Waldo County, Maine on March 13, 1852. I was the second child of 10 children of Elijah Young and Nancy Annville Heal.

I seem to have been born under an unlucky star as I had many accidents in my youth. The first was when I got lost on our celebrated “turnpike” [the road from Lincolnville to Camden, by Meguntcook lake]. I was about two-and-a-half years of age.

They found me about 3 o’clock in the morning. I was found where I had climbed up the mountainside from the road. I was asleep on a rock and half-dead. They had fired guns and about given up, thinking that I might have drowned in the pond when through a dream, Uncle Doctor, the seventh son of Moses Young, found me. I remember coming to life when they were taking me home in the wagon.

When I was about four years old, my mother gave me a whipping for getting inside of grandfather’s clock. The end of the switch, about three-eighths of an inch long, got into my right eye, and stayed there for nine days.

It hadn’t penetrated the eye, and could have been removed if the doctor had come, but he said to poultice it, and it ruined my eye. Grandfather said that he could have pulled the piece from my eye, but mother was sympathetic with my pain, and wouldn’t let him.

When I was nearly six years of age, father was chopping wood in the shed. I wanted to go out of the door beyond him. There was a narrow space between his chopping block and a tier of wood. I darted thru in front of him, while his axe in the air just missed me and took my right hand off in the air like a twig, mitten and all.

My Grandmother Young [Charlotte (Heal) Young] came up, and the excitement brought on a shock of palsy from which she died on that day., Jan. 17, 1858. Grandfather told me that he saved the thumb on my right hand. Dr. Gordon had wanted to cut it off at the wrist.

Grandfather said that it would be more than a hand to me. He was a practical man and saved me from failure. Without it, I would have been poor indeed. I can pick up a pin, button a button; in fact, those around and working with me never notice my disability. Doctors should be very careful in such cases and save, if possible, a remnant.

When I was older, I was helping father build our barn. I slipped and fell 10 feet headlong into the barn floor. It nearly broke my neck and laid me up for a long time. This was due to my eye, in miscalculating distance, as anyone knows you lose the angle of the two eyes. Try and place your finger on an object while shutting one eye and see for yourself.

I climbed a tree 15 feet where I threw my right arm over a rotten branch and fell to the rock below which laid me up for a long time.

In chopping down small trees, I smashed my finger badly and the only consolation I got from father was, “Why didn’t you keep on chopping?” Once he put the broad axe into his foot while working in the shipyard and he poured turpentine into the great gash and went on hewing. That’s the kind of men who make things go.

When I was 16, I was wrestling with a man about 40 pounds heavier than I, though I threw him. In doing it I slipped on the ice and was lame for a year in my back. Mother said, “Good enough for you, you shouldn’t wrestle.”

All sports were meat and food for me and I practiced exercises at home so as to outstrip my mates. Another time I was chip-chopping with a mate and my axe stuck, and his axe nearly severed the fingers of my left hand.

The same mate stabbed me near my juggler vein. I also had two severe cuts from my scythe. I knocked my big toe joint out and was lame for three years. I wrenched my ankle in jumping over a high wall which put me on crutches for a time.

I was thrown from a horse which hurt my side badly. I dropped a pistol and was shot through my right arm, smashing the bone. This wasn’t well before I thrust a big pin into my foot. I could have died from blood poisoning. In this case, I had only one foot and one hand left to help me around on my crutches.

I’ve never had a fight in my life but always was willing to measure up with my mates in a sportsman-like way to decide our ability, with no desire to injure or to be injured having grown cautious from experience. I lay the loss of my hand and other accidents to having lost my eye, as I couldn’t see my danger in that side and later was run over by a heavy team from the same cause.

I went to school three or four months of the year. I worked on our small farm and neighboring farms, and in Camden until I was about 19 years old. I then went to the Castine State Normal School, where I graduated in 1874. While I was attending this school, and afterward, I taught winters in about 16 towns in 10 years.

I taught singing and writing schools evenings. During vacations I worked haying, farming, carpentering and at any work that I could get. The principal of the Normal School found me proficient enough in vocal music to give me the primary class in music.

I taught while there, earning enough by being economical with vacation work and teaching to pay my own way. The first money I earned at $15 a month with Cal Joe Fry Hall. He offered me the money to go the school. I thanked him for his interest in me, and told him that I had saved money enough to go to Castine.

During the summer I also went mackerel fishing. I became proficient enough to go “high lining” on my last two trips. My best catch with handline was 10 “stave barrels” in one day, and that was in a fourth-class berth. Eben Loveland, our first hand, caught 11 barrels at the same time.

By working at these different occupations I managed to get a little money ahead, and finally, after seeing some of Gaskell’s fine penmanship, I went to his college at Manchester, N.H. He gave me praise, and said I had a fortune in my left hand, and that he made as much money in advertising me as he did from learning from his Compendium.

After publishing my portrait and a write-up in a daily paper, he conceived the idea of publishing them in his Gazette. It was an incentive to thousands, many of whom became prominent penmen, but I was before them. I have outlasted nearly all of them, and probably have done more practical penmanship than any living man — yes, any two, for that matter — ever did.

None believed that a left-handed man could do it. The secret of it was that I used the muscle or forearm instead of fingers. By that means I could do the heaviest work and still retain my writing. The leading penmen laughed at it, but I have taught right-handed persons with my method and had wonderful success.

Mr. Gaskell considered me the best left-hand writer in the United States. He said that the most interesting part of this writing is that I turned the paper round until the ruled lines are vertical, the head of the sheet being by my right hand, then turned the left side of my body toward the desk, and wrote down the vertical lines toward my body.

Mr. Gaskell told a reporter, “When completed, the sheet is turned round and the letter is found in the ordinary shape and with all the letters sloped as if written by a right-handed person. Mr. Young is a young gentleman of education, and has been a successful teacher in Maine. He unhesitatingly declares the elegances of his penmanship is entirely attributable to his study of Gaskell’s Compendium. He has only been about a week a student at the business college.”

Now after 50 years, they are trying to teach penmanship all over. But they don’t get at it as I did and still do, for I can duplicate anything done with the pen.

At 70 years of age, I can do 200 diplomas in a day, what it took three of us — A. R. Dunton, myself and an assistant — to do in two days, and I have been an invalid for six years. I have lost 80 pounds in weight. So much for my practical work.

I was gifted with fine eyesight, being able to write the Lord’s Prayer six times on a silver half dime.

I was also gifted with a fine constitution from my New England Yankee parents of which there were none better, being able to do all that pertained to our primitive mode of living, having to farm, carpenter, spin, weave, knit, cook, wash and make nearly everything we need in the first years of my life.

How many times I’ve seen mother spin til 11 o’clock at night. She always had some work in the evening after all the work of the day. Caring for a family of 10 children is some job. Father was a mighty man. He never let me sit in the corner and suck my thumb, though I had one hand and one eye. But he put the lash to me, and finally I got so I could lead him in the hay field.

We need not be ashamed of our old-fashioned New England parents. They have produced the children who have made this country. May the Lord save us from producing a degenerate race, for it is fast superseding our good old stock, both physically, mentally and mechanically.

But for our early training among the rocks and ribs of Maine’s hills, I never could have stood the strain of my work and survived. Teachers and penmen with much less work I have seen pass out, though I was before them at the work. I thank my dad for making me hoe my row and keep up now, though I rebelled sometimes when I was not allowed more time to play.

I also became a sharp-shooter. Major F. O. Anderson, editor of The Penman’s News-Letter, who called me the “Marvel of the Ages” wrote: “Mr. F. O. Young was not only a great penman, but one of the greatest marksmen of all times. He held the world’s record for musket shooting, having made 459 out of 500, against the former champion, Chris Meyer. He made 98 bull’s eyes out of 100 shots. At 200 yards offhand shooting, he has never been equaled. Mr. Young used a 15-pound Ballard rifle.”

He held the world-record of The Columbia Pistol and Rifle Club, with the fine rifle at the Shellmound Range, where he fired two scores and made five, and four on the Columbia target. The latter score had never been equaled.

As F. O. Young grew older, he wrote to a relative: “Dear Cousin: I note your writing is improving. My eye is growing dim. I can see about seven inches without specs to write and read. What an eye I had! and so abused. It got near-sighted and I went into long-range shooting to lengthen it and it did. Then I had to put on glasses until it came back to original sight. So I put on distance specs but it is hazy and the optician can’t fit me, so I am up against it. But I am thankful that it is as well as it is.

“Just consider that during the past 55 years I’ve written about 2,000,000 cards, 50,000 diplomas, and engrossed over 50,000 pieces besides all my letters, flourishes, drawings, signs, etc, etc. After two penmen who had learned from me played out, I took their place in the Emporium and wrote for 15 years under a two-power electric. I wrote the Lord’s Prayer six times in the size of half dime, without specs. My competitor used two specs and wrote it four times. He claimed the record.”

Another of F. O. Young’s hobbies was making fine violins. It seemed that there was nothing that he could not do. His violins, his sharpshooting pistol, many, many of his penmanship drawings are among his relatives. Some have found their way to the Lincolnville Historical Society, and have been displayed at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland.

A newspaper clipping titled “Expert With Pistol And Pen” summed up his life: “Mr. F. O. Young, the California representative of the Sharpshooters’ Union, Newark, N.J. is a Maine man, with one eye and one hand. His father accidentally chopped off his right hand when he was a small boy and his mother knocked his right eye out whipping him for getting inside his grandfather’s clock.

“He never traveled on a railroad without an accident of some kind happening. He has been mauled by wildcats, hugged by bears, bitten by rattlesnakes, thrown from bronco ponies a hundred times, frozen so often that he has become accustomed to it. He was struck by lightening and had both feet shattered, and has been gored by a Durham bull. Mr. Young, in modestly relating his experience, said he was ‘beginning to be afraid that something serious might happen to him some day.’

“Mr. Young was one of the successful shooting competitors and won a gold and silver medal and numerous other prizes. He is the finest pistol shot on the Pacific Coast, and is also recognized as the champion left-handed penman of the world.”

Fred Osborne Young died May 15, 1932 in San Francisco, aged 80 years and 1 month. One reporter wrote of him as being “one of our Lincolnville boys” who now sleeps among his kindred in the family lot in the Youngtown Cemetery in Lincolnville.

Postscript: Lincolnville Historical Society welcomes contributions of any data relating to F. O. Young, as well as other Lincolnville artifacts.

Isabel Morse Maresh is a historian and genealogist who lives in Belmont.