The Fourth of July, 1824 - For the residents of the small town of Shelburne, New Hampshire, in Coos County, the celebration of our nation's birth had to be put on hold that Sunday morning. 15-year old Abigail Y. Leavitt, who was residing with Mr. Robert Ingalls, had gone missing the night before, failing to return from gathering evergreens. A party of 60-70 townspeople, comprised of those who were able to trek the heavily forested mountains above the Ameriscoggin (ie. Androscoggin) River, began their search. Concord's New Hampshire Patriot was one of many newspapers to write about the actions that day, as described in these clippings:
Did her mother remarry after 1820, when the pension payments ended, and then moved out to Illinois? Did any of her children accompany her on this trek? There are a couple of them not yet accounted for.
Who WAS her mother, other than "Lois"? The marriage intents of Joseph Leavitt in 1804 [Bethel Town Recs, no pg #] failed to name his bride to be. A clue, perhaps, is found in the name of this daughter, "Abigail Y." Leavitt. "Y" surnames were not common, and early Bethel had the Young and York families. Standing out among the Yorks is one Abigail York, who was the wife of Jonathan Bean, and they did have a daughter named Lois Bean, born 1786 [Hist. of Bethel, pg 479]. A lead to work on!
Abigail was born on 16 Jan 1810 [Bethel Town Records, pg 78]. She married John E. Swan by 1832 and had two children before she died in 1835. She is buried in the Middle Intervale Cemetery, Bethel. She is found in the Desc. of Thomas Leavitt v.4, pg 50, though there are errors in that connection. The History of Bethel, ME, pg 581, also shows problems with the family genealogy, as copied from the Town Records (pg 64 and 78).
With many annual Fourth of July celebrations, the following day's newspapers are usually filled with stories about the exciting fireworks displays, along with the mishaps that always seem to follow them. The summer of 1859 was no different, and included a Leavitt family member from New Hampshire:
The above news report was printed in the Mirror and Farmer on 9 July 1859, recounting a fireworks accident that occurred in Pittsfield, NH at 9:30 PM that past Monday evening, during a Fourth of July celebration. BENJAMIN F. LEAVITT of Chichester [Desc. of Thomas Leavitt v.4, pg 104-5] was one of several persons who were injured when a pile of fireworks were accidentally set-off and struck the gathered crowd.
While the Manchester newspaper stated that a rocket had struck the right side of his nose, breaking it, and then gouging out his left eye, other accounts claimed "the whole of one side of his face stricken off, carrying with it the eye and nose" [Boston Post, 7/7; and copied by other New England papers]. The papers added: "although alive this morning, cannot survive but a few hours at most".
The Boston Daily Traveller, on the 7th of July, had given a more detailed account about Benjamin F. Leavitt Esq. himself. The New York Herald copied their version, and printed it on the 9th [below, clipped from the Chronicling America website]. Though off on his age by a few years, they added interesting details about his life, including time spent in California, earning enough to pay off family debts back home, and serving in the N.H. Legislature in 1857 and '58.
The Dover Enquirer, dated Thurs., July 14th, while continuing with the horrific description of Mr. Leavitt's face, followed with the postscript:
"We are informed by Mr. Freeze, the driver of the Pittsfield stage, that only three of the above persons (Leavitt, Garland, and Willey) were injured, and that all are in a fair way to recover. - The injury which they received was not so great as reported".
Benjamin Franklin Leavitt survived more than a "few hours". In fact, he lived until 16 May 1882, dying from bronchitis at age 73 [buried in Leavitt Cem, Chichester]. Mr. Calvin Drew (initially called "Daniel" in early reports) Garland, the other man "fatally wounded", would live until 1896. The young boy John Willey was perhaps the son of Hazen Willey, and had just turned 7 years old that July 4th day. He died in 1914.
Joseph Parsons Leavitt, the son of Major John and Mary (Parsons) Leavitt, was born in Effingham, New Hampshire on 4 Sept 1800 [Descendants of Thomas Leavitt, v. 4, pg 77/132]. The twelve acres in Effingham he had purchased from Morris Leavitt in 1823 were sold off in 1826, Joseph having moved to Dover, NH by that time. He remained here through 1833, as the next city directory in 1837 no longer finds him there (though sister Lucinda is now here). He removed to Kingston, Ulster, NY by the 1840 census, which is possibly where his wife Abigail died in 1842. He remarried the following year, with son Charles born "in New York" in 1844. From there he went south to Virginia, and was in the settlement called "New England" by 1847. This unincorporated place was within the Harris District, Wood County.
His younger brother, Samuel Quarles Leavitt, even after buying half of his father's farm in 1832, instead decided to join his brother, either while still in New York, or perhaps after he reached Virginia. Sister Susan, with husband Asa Pease and their children, also made the trek, along with Asa's brother Sylvester. Lucinda P. Leavitt, the youngest child of Major John, who had been living in Dover, NH in 1843, also removed to Wood County with her siblings. Considering the method of travel at that time, where they "traveled from Philadelphia over the Allegheny mountains by stage to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio River by boat" [Desc. of Thomas, pg 132], it is likely they would made the journey together.
Here on an 1877 map of New England (Harris), West Virginia, the several Leavitt names are marked out. If that straight road from the town center to "Leavitt's Landing" existed, it didn't last long, considering the hilly landscape. The later 1886 map shows that Joseph took an easier way around, using the flatlands to reach his homestead. The blacksmith (B. S.) shop on map was on a 1/2 acre of land owned by Samuel Q. Leavitt, whose home was next door (#3). That house lot of 3 acres was willed to daughter Mary Rhodes in 1877 (on 1886 map, marked as "L. Rhodes Heirs").
Below is the New England community from an 1886 map, now with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad running along the Ohio River. The Leavitt related locations are numbered, with comments below.
1. "J. P. Leavitts Heirs" - family of Joseph P. Leavitt (1800-1881), his wife Mary died in 1887. Purchased 1400 acres of land on the Ohio River in 1847 (Wood County Deeds: Bk 14 pg 215 and 14-337); sold portions off to relatives soon after.
2. "Cem" - The New England Baptist Cemetery
The family of Joseph P. Leavitt is buried here - over a dozen Leavitt names found in the cemetery transcription: Wood County Cemetery Transcriptions, Vol. 1, pg 207 (his family monument includes his first wife Abigail and two young sons, who died before he settled in western Virginia).
3. "P. Leavitt" - Pierce Leavitt (1853-1927), son of Joseph. Bought 56 1/2 acres from his father in 1879, "on the North Fork of Lee Creek". He later moved to Chattanooga, TN. His former homestead may still be standing, though long abandoned. Image clipped from Google satellite view. Located at GPS: 39.202908, -81.699695
4. "V. W. Leavitt" - Virgil Warren Leavitt (1858-1891), son of Joseph
5. "G. E. Leavitt - Store & P.O., Res" - George Elmendorf Leavitt (1848-1930), s/o Joseph. There is a house dated 1860 on south side of the Ridge Road, which is either George's or his neighbor "D. C. Whitlock". A few outbuildings on property are also very aged. Hard to pinpoint, even when trying to trace back land deeds.
6. "Asa Pease" - married to Susan Leavitt, sister of Joseph. Arrived in Wood County, 1847 (dau Lucinda b. Nov 1846 in NH). The house currently standing in area where Asa's property is marked on map is dated 1884, so not original home he lived in.
7. "S. Pease" - Sylvester E. Pease, brother of Asa; married to Lucinda P. Leavitt, sister of Joseph P., in 1857.
On the Vintage Aerial website, there are multiple rolls of film that cover this area in the 1980's and 1990's. I've marked many of them with "New England" for ease of finding. https://vintageaerial.com/photos/west-virginia/wood
Located in the online "Printed Ephemera Collection" of the Library of Congress is this pamphlet (the above being a portion clipped from it) , printed in the memory of Captain Porter Leavitt, who was lost at sea in 1827. The author is unknown, with only "Written by his father" as a clue to the person who penned the poem.
Captain Leavitt had left Portland, Maine for St. Michael's (now São Miguel Island) in the Azores, cleared to leave the port on 31 Jan [Eastern Argus, 3 Feb. 1827, pg 3]. 1500 miles out in the Atlantic, in the early hours of Monday, February the 19th, the vessel was struck by a series of gales, snapping off the main mast and flooding the interior of the ship. The cook and ship's mate were drowned while stuck within the cabin, leaving the master and two men on the main deck, adrift and dead in the water. Four hours later came the "dawning of the day", 5:00 A.M., and the wave that would wash Captain Leavitt overboard.
Later that same day, the Brig Comet came upon the wreck of the still afloat Leander, its two remaining seamen clinging to life. She herself had been battered by the storms, losing her cook overboard, but was able to complete the voyage, and bring the story of Leavitt and the Leander back with her.
Who was Captain Porter Leavitt?
When news of his death first reached the American ports, he was reported to be Capt. Lovitt or Loveitt, out of Portsmouth, NH. This city claimed no masters of this name, and said he must have been out of Portland, which was confirmed by the Portland papers. By then, the correct surname of "Leavitt" was being printed.
As the pamphlet stated, Porter was "aged 25 years, 4 months, and 16 days" on the day of his death, calculated out to him being born on/or about 3 Oct. 1801. There is no birth record found for him in Maine VR, nor in the town records researched. He is also not found in any of the printed LEAVITT genealogies. What is known:
In 1817, Porter Leavitt of Portland, Maine was a student at Bradford Academy [Students of Bradford Acad., 1803-1853]. No other Leavitt attended there.
During the 1820 census, he would have been nearly 19 years of age, but was not enumerated by name, so probably still in the household of his parents.
He was married, on 23 Dec 1824, in Boston, MA [Boston Marr., Vol. 15, pg 338], to MARY STEVENSON. She was born ca 1798, and died 10 Jun 1873, aged 75 yrs, 6 mos.
"On Thursday evening, by the Rev. Mr. Wisner, Capt. Porter Leavitt, of Portland, to Miss Mary Stevenson, of Saco" [Boston Comm. Gazette, Mon., 27 Dec 1824, pg 3]. The widow Leavitt was remarried, on 29 Mar 1843 [Portland Wkly Advert., 11 Apr 1843, pg 3], to Edmund P. Dennett of Buxton, ME. Mary is buried with her children in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Saco.
The Cumberland County Probate, having been lost in a fire, is an unusable source, and no probate notices were printed in local newspapers following his death. The Registry of Deeds for this county show no land transactions with a Porter Leavitt, so it seems he was a renter while he lived in Portland.
There are two known children of Capt. Porter and Mary (Stevenson) Leavitt:
i. ALBERT PORTER LEAVITT, b. abt 1825; died 26 Nov 1847 in Saco, from consumption, aged 22 [Saco VR, Vol. 2, pg 22]. He is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Saco. He was married to SUSAN D. GUILFORD [intents filed 3 Nov 1846 in Dover, New Hampshire - Dover, NH Marr, 1824-47, Vol. 1, pg 252]. She was the dau. of William and Mary Guilford, b. 7 Mar 1823 [Buxton, ME VR, Bk 4, pg 256]. She died on 2 Jan 1849 [grave; Buxton VR, Bk 4, pg 256; Saco VR, v.2, pg 26 says 3 Jan], aged 26 yrs, and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. He attended Saco's Thornton Academy in Sept., 1839 [List of Students, 1813-1848].
ii. JANE ALMIRA LEAVITT, b. ca Mar 1827; d. (as "Miss Almira") 5 Sep 1843, aged 16 yrs, 6 mos [Saco VR, vol. 2, pg 13; grave]; bur. in Laurel Hill Cem, Saco. She attended (as "Almira Jane"), Thornton Academy in 1842 (age listed as 13).
Albert and his wife Susan, along with Jane and their mother Mary, are all buried in the same plot in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Saco. Photos of their stones are on the Saco, Maine cemetery listings page we have on this website (here).
While there are no sources (found so far) that directly link Porter Leavitt to a set of parents, there is a good possibility he was the son of DR. JOSHUA LEAVITT. The Doctor [in Descend. of Moses Leavitt, pg 80-81] had married, in Otisfield, Maine on 20 July 1800, to SALLY PORTER. By 1810, they were in Portland, Maine, and he lived there until at least 1829, as he frequently ran ads for his business in the Portland papers, the last one printed in Jan. 1829. Not found in 1830, he is in Naples, Maine for the 1840 and 1850 censuses (both of those living by himself). He was living with son Samuel R. Leavitt in 1858 Portland Dir., but had returned to Naples the following year, dying there on 11 May 1859, aged 84 [Portland Wkly Advert., 24 May 1859, pg 3]. In the (August) 1820 census, Dr. Joshua had 1 son "aged 16-18", and Porter would have been two months shy of 19 yrs old at that time. More convincing is the fact that Samuel R. named a son Albert Porter Leavitt (born ca. Feb 1849, according to 1880 army enlistment), which was the name of Capt. Porter's only son, who had died 15 months earlier in Saco.
Here is the complete page...LINES, In Memory of PORTER LEAVITT
Library of Congress link to item: https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.02603300/
ALBERT LEAVITT was born in Alfred, Maine on 24 Dec 1829, the son of James and Nancy (Stevens) Leavitt [Desc. of Nehemiah Leavitt, pg 34/48]. He moved with his parents to Waterboro Center by 1840, where his father was a merchant and a successful businessman. Albert and his brothers followed in their father's footsteps, also becoming traders and merchants. While sons Benjamin Leavitt and Alonzo remained in Maine, Charles left for Chicago (later settling in Iowa) and Albert, the focus of this writing, followed the "gold rush" to California.
The (Nov.) 1852 state census for California shows "A. Leavitt", age 22, a miner in Tuolumne County. In June, 1854 [Columbia Gazette, 6/17/1854, pg 2], "Mr. Leavett" purchased half of the Columbo Saloon building on the corner of Main and State St. This building, along with most of the other structures in town, went up in flames on the 10th of July, 1854. All were quickly rebuilt, many now constructed with "fire-proof" brick and mortar. By 1855, Albert joined into a partnership with Robert H. Towle, as "Towle & Leavitt", who had occupied the building on the northwest corner of Main and State Streets (formerly the business of bookseller Charles J. Brown).
The above image was clipped from a lithograph of the town, published by the said "Towle & Leavitt" in 1855, showing the building they operated their business from [note: this place still stands today - see links at end of this writing].
See: Miners and business men's directory for the year commencing January 1st, 1856 - with a full page by Towle & Leavitt on pg 24 [Internet Archive].
He badly burned both of his hands while saving his watch and jewelry display. His losses were valued at $10,000 [Sacramento Daily Union, 08/29/1857, pg 3], but he rebuilt, though eventually moving on shortly after.
In 1859, he sold all of his stock to D. C. Travis [Columbia Wkly News, 03/24/1859, pg 4]. "A. Leavitt" boarded the overland stage in Sacramento on 18 May 1860, and headed east towards St. Louis. On the 30th of June of same year, he was married in Waltham, MA to Miss Ellen Bagley. In the newspaper notice [Waltham Sentinel, Fri., 6 July, 1860, pg 3], he was listed as "of Columbia, Cal." Note: A few years earlier, an 1857 report [parks.ca.gov] stated the overland express would take 25 days to make a run from Cali. to St. Louis. He then likely took a train east from there, a roughly 2 1/2 day run (in 1848 time - ARJ, vol. 21, pg 357). Less than 2 weeks later, he was married!
The couple had three children during their residence in Saco:
i. Harry Burton Leavitt, b. 10 Jun. 1861;
ii. George Albert Leavitt, b. 6 Feb. 1863
iii. Mary Ella Leavitt, b. 12 Feb. 1866
In March of 1866 [Maine Democrat, 3/20/1866, pg 3], Albert closed out his business in Saco and removed to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Street directories show him with several different occupations, including general book agent (with W.H. Graves, as "Graves & Leavitt"), advertising agent, and a travelling agent. The family moved to West Medford, Massachusetts in the 1870's, where he sold steamless cookers [1895 W. Medford Dir.] and, a few years prior to that, worked with son George (as Geo. A Leavitt & Co.), selling "hollow ware".
Wife Ellen died in Medford in 1905, and Albert died there in 1908, both being buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in town. Their children are also buried there.
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