In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Great Cranberry Island's Preble House

(Page 2 of 3) Print Version 
William Pitt Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1900
William Pitt Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

William Pitt Preble

William Pitt Preble, ca. 1850
William Pitt Preble, ca. 1850

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

While not as colorful or controversial as the builder of the Preble House, the second owner exemplified the industrious ingenuity needed to succeed in homesteading and developing a community on a rugged Maine island in the early 19th century.

William Pitt Preble (1811-1905) descended from one of seven Preble brothers who had emigrated from England to Portland in the 17th century. Related to an influential Portland family, he was the son of the Mount Desert Rock lighthouse keeper.

He survived two wives, spanning nearly six decades of marriage.

In 1839, Preble married Abigail Hadlock Spurling (1808-1874), the widowed sister of the first owner of the house.

In 1875, he married the first owner's widowed daughter, Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford (1826-1898).

William Pitt Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1860
William Pitt Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1860

Item Contributed by
Acadia National Park

Preble came to Great Cranberry Island as a schoolteacher, became a church elder, selectman, justice of the peace, notary public, gentleman farmer, tax appraiser, postmaster, storekeeper, shipbuilder, ship owner, and shipwreck appraiser.

William Pitt Preble, ca. 1870
William Pitt Preble, ca. 1870

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

He processed, witnessed, and composed documents for himself and others including correspondence, store ledgers, and shipwreck salvage papers.

He witnessed the marriages of many Cranberry Islanders over the years, and was instrumental in civic projects including establishment of the first Post Office on the island in about 1847 and construction of the non-denominational Union Meeting House in 1866.

In 1901, Preble's stepson, Samuel "Sammy" Sanford (1852-1933), won a lawsuit against him for payment due for services rendered at the Preble House.

Sanford had moved out of the main house and lived in a cabin on the property for decades. It is there he met and inspired the author Rachel Field, and thus earned the homestead a place in literary history.

Abigail Cobb Hadlock Spurling Preble

Abigail Cobb Hadlock Spurling Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1855
Abigail Cobb Hadlock Spurling Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1855

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

Life was complex for Abigail Cobb Hadlock Spurling Preble (1808-1874). She married William Pitt Preble in 1839 after her first husband, Samuel Spurling, was lost at sea in 1837, and about four years after the same fate struck her adventurous, showman brother, Captain Samuel Hadlock Jr.

Abigail Cobb Hadlock Spurling Preble, ca. 1870
Abigail Cobb Hadlock Spurling Preble, ca. 1870

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

Abigail brought five Spurling children to her second marriage, and she and Preble had four more children together. They raised all nine children in the Preble House.

As a woman, Abigail is less visible in the historical record than her husband. Still, for more than six decades the Preble House was tied to females of Hadlock descent.

Abigail supervised the Preble family and farm, and documents indicate she paid the household bills.

In the 1850s, Great Cranberry Island was bustling, and families were large. The census of 1850 lists at least 202 people living in 34 houses.

As the first president of the Cranberry Isles Benevolent Sewing Circle , later known as Ladies Aid, Abigail was the driving force behind securing funds for construction of the Island's first church, the Union Meeting House. The church was dedicated in 1866; it cost $3,200.

Abigail was not immune to the hardships of her times. She lost two infant sons and saw her eldest son off to live in California during the gold rush of 1849. Abigail Preble died at age 66 in 1874; her husband lived another 21 years.

Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1890
Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford Preble, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1890

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society
Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1855
Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1855

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford Preble

Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford Preble (1826-1898) was William Pitt Preble's second wife, and he was her second husband.

She was the third Hadlock to reside in the Preble House.

She was the Parisian-born daughter of the adventurous showman Captain Samuel Hadlock Jr. and his Prussian wife, Hanna Caroline Dorothea Russ, for whom the Preble House was originally built.

Jane Matilda Hadlock came to the house as an infant and returned as its mistress at age 49.

Jane Matilda was the mother of Samuel "Sammy" Sanford, reclusive cabin dweller and keeper of his grandfather's expedition journals.

Samuel Clark Sanford

Samuel "Sammy" Clark Sanford (1852-1933) was the son of Jane Matilda Hadlock Sanford and George E. Sanford. He was the grandson of Captain Samuel Hadlock Jr., and keeper of his grandfather's European exhibition journals.

Samuel Clark Sanford, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1930
Samuel Clark Sanford, Great Cranberry Island, ca. 1930

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

Sanford became the stepson of William Pitt Preble in 1875 when his mother became Preble's second wife.

Sanford moved out of Preble House and lived for decades in a one-room cabin on his stepfather's land. He farmed, sold vegetables, and harvested ice for sale in the summer.

In 1898, a month after his mother's death, Sanford sued Preble for payment of services rendered at Preble House. The case dragged on for three years before Sanford won.

Preble's cross-examination states Sanford had lived at his house like one of his family, but had become moody and morose. This small suit lends additional perspective to the personalities of both men.

By chance in about 1916, Sanford encountered author Rachel Field near his cabin and told her about his grandfather's journeys.

Rachel Field, Arthur Pederson, Cranberry Isles, 1935
Rachel Field, Arthur Pederson, Cranberry Isles, 1935

Item Contributed by
Great Cranberry Island Historical Society

In the summer of 1933, Field returned and interviewed Sanford several times in his cabin. Just two days before his death, Sanford entrusted Field with his grandfather Hadlock's journals.

In 1934, Field published God's Pocket, and told the world the story of Hadlock's European exhibition tour.

Rachel Field

Rachel Lyman Field (1894-1942), novelist, poet, and artist, summered on the Cranberry Isles.

Her visits with Samuel "Sammy" Sanford inspired her book, God's Pocket, based on the journals of Captain Samuel Hadlock Jr., early 19th-century seafarer and traveling showman, who built the Preble House.

Hadlock was Sanford's grandfather.

Field's book Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, is about a little wooden doll who wrote her own memoir of her 19th-century adventures with a Preble family, It begins in a setting very much like the Preble House.