A story by William Dow Turner from Four centuries, 1620 - 2020
A Note from a Maine-American
With 7 generations before statehood, and 5 generations since, Maine DNA carries on.
Maine’s state Bicentennial has highlighted how noteworthy the 20th year of each of the past four centuries has been for my ancestors and family in America, with Maine at the core.
THE YEAR OF 1620, of course, saw the Mayflower deposit the 100-odd Pilgrims from England at the bottom of Cape Cod, sewing the seeds for the New World and what this country was to become.
A mere 17 years later, a new wave of refugees escaping from the British Crown and church, crossed the Atlantic against the winds in search of a new life. Henry Dow and his family of seven were among those passengers making the 3,300-mile voyage, arriving in Boston Harbor and settling in Watertown, part of Massachusetts colony.
Seven years later, Henry moved north, up the Atlantic coast, where he and the next five Dow generations lived and farmed among the towns of Salisbury, Seabrook, and Hampton.
BY 1720, Nathan Dow was four years old in Salisbury. At the time, the Massachusetts Puritans considered the lands beyond the Hampton and Piscataqua rivers, to be the "Devil’s own", populated by "godless Indians and papist French." Nevertheless, in his 40's – and following the close of the French and Indian War – Nathan continued the Dows' northward movement up the coast, finally making a home for his family on virtually uninhabited Deer Isle. He was known as "the Quaker born from old Salisbury", and the current Dow Point and Dow Road fell within his considerable piece of land.
Nathan’s son John migrated in a similar way to Isle Au Haut, and his son, Samuel, in turn moved to yet another island, 15 miles farther up – Mt. Desert – by 1819. They settled at Tremont, which is still marked by Dow Point and Dow Point Road.
Samuel's was the seventh generation of Dows in America before George Washington became the nation's first president.
IN 1820, on March 15, Maine became a state, set free in a Constitutional and jurisdictional way from its former Massachusetts identity. Eight months earlier, Maine's inhabitants had voted 3,315 to 1,394 to become an independent state. The U.S. Congress then agreed to grant statehood along with Missouri, to maintain a balance between pro-slavery and anti-slavery states.
My eyebrows used to rise at the mention of "The Missouri Compromise" to describe Maine and Missouri being admitted together. But, I have come to recognize that this reference is wholly-compatible with the Maine attitude that "somebody else compromised, we didn’t."
Only 11 weeks later, Samuel Dow's fourth son – my great great grandfather – William Dow, was born at Tremont, on Mt. Desert Island. In 1839, he married his young neighbor Naomi Somes Ober, and they were to have 10 children. By the 1850s, and with the advent of the "county road’"along the coast on the mainland, William followed his two brothers to live in the almost-budding town of Hancock. He joined with two local businessmen to rebuild an 81-ton schooner, and then captained it.
William's son George W. Dow was born in1847. His middle name – either Washington or William – remains uncertain; there is documentation of each, and it was the custom of the day to acknowledge the country's first president or to extend one's father’s legacy.
George became a full-time mariner, captaining his first vessel by 1868, at age 21. Two-years later, he married a German immigrant's daughter Jenny Bush, also of North Hancock. After occasionally sailing with his father, George devoted himself to sailing the seas, initially out of Hancock, then from an Ellsworth home (at the corner of Washington and the Ellsworth-Mt. Desert Road), and finally for 25 years from Boston. His career as a mariner spanned more than 40 years, primarily plying the Spanish Main.
Boston was his home port, but George's family, heart, and business ties remained in Maine. He partnered with George Young in Hancock for years selling farm implements. And his two sons – George and Orville – remained intertwined with cousins and their families in Mid-Coast all their lives.
At age 60, Captain Dow was appointed master of the only seven-masted and largest pure sailing vessel ever built, the Thomas W. Lawson. In December of 1907, he survived its storm-filled inaugural trans-Atlantic voyage and sinking, just off the coast of England in the Isles of Scilly. He retired several years later.
George's son Richard, born in 1879 in Hancock, was the first in the Dow line to attend a university, graduating in 1901 with a chemical engineering degree from MIT (then referred to as 'Boston Tech'). During his college-year summers, he earned money playing his cornet in Maine resorts. He eloped with Annie and moved to California and several other states during his career, thereby severing the 10 generations of Maine-based lineage. Richard traveled back to Hancock, at least annually, all his life until his death in 1961.
IN 1920, my mother Mary Dow was born in Nichols, California. Growing up near Buffalo, she married an engineer and WWII air force navigator, and lived most of her adult life in the Chicago suburbs. Her first child and only son, I was born in Buffalo on St. Patrick's Day, 1945.
2020 marks Maine's 200th and my 75th year, the latter of which is noteworthy for the two obvious reasons: I've lived this long, and I'm this old, already. Although I have never lived in Maine, I love it, and I have loved having its heritage in my DNA down through the 12 generations stemming from Henry Dow's arrival in 1636. You might say Dow is my middle name.
My single line of male descendants alone counts in excess of 80 children over the four centuries. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of others with similar Dow heritage. If there still were telephone books, there would be many pages of Dows in Maine alone.
And, I'm confident that among these hordes there is pride, affection, and perhaps some longing, from that shared heritage. Happy Birthday, Maine!
William Dow Turner
March 31, 2020