Friday, August 31, 2018

Murder at West Great Works

Sepia photograph of lumber mill
Undated, 19th Century photograph of the timber-built lumber mill at West Great Works constructed on cribs to create a spit in the Penobscot River (See Figure 1). To the left of the smokestack, roofs of houses and tenements in West Great Works Village are visible. This land now lies beneath the foundation of the Old Town mill complex. Image: MS1732_DemerittD_Box_2_Folder_11_224 courtesy of Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, DigitalCommons@UMaine, 

Another Horror!

Augustus Gowen was an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life in 19th Century Maine. The end of his life, however, was shrouded in mystery, speculation, and innuendo. Gowen's death marked the second brutal ax murder to happen in Penobscot County in a 31-day span in 1879, spurring the Bangor Whig & Courier and the Bangor Daily Commercial newspapers to seize on and report every thread of gossip about the suspects and victim alike, casting aspersions on Augustus' otherwise respectable, albeit mundane life.

Portrait of Augustus Gowen
Portrait thought to be of Augustus Gowen, ca. 1865.
Photograph courtesy of Paul Aldrich.
Born in Union, Maine in August 1810, Augustus Gowen was one of at least nine children, five of whom were brothers. The firstborn son, Preston, died at age three in 1809, but four brothers survived childhood. According to various U. S. Census records, the eldest surviving brother, Erastus Gowen, became a farmer and carpenter while Augustus, Luther, and Albert all chose careers in the lumber industry: Augustus as a millwright; Luther, a scaler, and Albert, a lumberman. Working as support players in the industry that gave birth to Bangor’s lumber barons, Erastus, Augustus, and Luther all married and settled in the greater Bangor, Orono-Old Town area making successful, yet modest livings while Albert relocated to St. Anthony, Minnesota where timber boomed, feeding western expansion following the Civil War.

Portrait of Eliza Gowen
Portrait of Eliza H. (Joy) Gowen, 1810-1868.
Photograph courtesy of Paul Aldrich.
On January 20, 1834, Augustus married Eliza H. Joy, the sister of prominent Orono merchant, Hiram Joy. The union marked Gowen’s elevation from laborer to the merchant class. Though never as wealthy or successful as his brother-in-law, Gowen made a living that supported his small family. According to Paul Aldrich, the Gowens’ great-great-grandson, there is some confusion regarding the number of children born to Eliza and Augustus.1 According to municipal records, the couple had a daughter Caroline, who died August 28, 1843, at 11 years 11 months of age2 and lays in an unmarked grave at Riverside Cemetery in Orono. According to this information, the child’s birth in September 1831 pre-dates the Gowens’ documented marriage by nearly three years. The alleged birth, however, was never recorded in the family bible, according to Aldrich,3 and Caroline was not enumerated in the 1840 Federal census for Orono which recorded the presence of only one female child in the household who matches the documented age of daughter, Martha, as “Free White Persons-Females-Under 5.”4 Without supporting documentation for Caroline’s birth or death, Aldrich credit’s association of the child’s name with the Gowens’ gravesite as a potential clerical error.5 Alternatively, if she was the couple’s first child, the circumstances of the little girl’s birth may account for the community’s rapid descent into salacious speculation about Augustus Gowen’s private life following his murder. 

Portrait of Martha Gowen Crowell
Portrait of Martha (Gowen) Crowell, 1836-1871.
Photograph courtesy of Paul Aldrich.
Though a member of the Republican party, a supporter of education for women, and the Temperance movement, Gowen’s name appears infrequently in local newspapers. In 1856, he served as secretary of the Freemont Club of Orono6, supporting John Charles Frémont’s failed campaign for the U.S. Presidency. During the 1860s, when his brother-in-law Hiram served as a town Selectman and Tax Collector,7 Gowen apparently served a stint as town coroner in 1864 as he was credited in the Whig & Courier for holding a coroner’s inquest into the accidental drowning death of David Smith.8 Beyond these brief mentions in the Bangor paper, Gowen lived the kind of life rarely noted in print. Working as a millwright, Gowen opened a shop in the property known as Buffum’s store in Orono. Facing some apparent financial difficulty in the mid-1850s,9 the shop eventually closed, possibly around the time of his brother-in-law’s death.

Marble Grave Marker for Crowell-Gowen
Grave marker of Martha (Gowen) Crowell and three of her four children, Edith, Fred, and Lizzie, at Riverside Cemetery, Orono, Maine located in Range 2E, Lot 78, near the graves of her parents. The front of the marble marker bears the names of Martha’s husband, James M. Crowell and his second wife, Delia W. Heald.  Photo by Kimberly J. Sawtelle.

The Gowens’ daughter, Martha, married James Moody Crowell in early 1860 and happily gave birth to a first grandchild, Mary, on December 31 of that year. Unfortunately, the balance of the 19th Century would largely bring sorrows to Augustus Gowen. First, his friend and brother-in-law, Hiram, died in February 18619 after a protracted illness. Eliza’s death followed on December 13, 1868.10 The deaths of two grandchildren, Edith and Fred, followed in March and July of 1869. Little more than 18-months later, Martha died of consumption on January 23, 1871.11 By the time of Gowen’s own death in March of 1879, only two grandchildren survived him; of them, only Mary lived to see the 20th Century.

Quiet Night at Home

On the evening of March 10, 1879, at age 69, Augustus Gowen sat reading in his room. Born in the earlier part of the century, he still wore an old-fashioned wig. After closing up the shop for the day, he doffed the wig that lay on the table beside him.

Sometime following Eliza’s death and possibly due to his financial difficulties, Gowen moved from Orono to the village of West Great Works in Old Town to occupy the first floor of a house owned by Erastus, who lived and worked in Bangor. Facing the challenges of advancing age and changing technology in the lumber industry, Gowen opened a wheelwright shop in the front room of the house, repairing carriages and wheels but also taking whatever work came his way, including sharpening tools. 

Wooden plank inscribed in ink
Cover of a shipping crate addressed to Augustus Gowen in Orono, possibly when his shop was located in the Buffum building. The crate was later converted into a toy box which eventually fell apart. The cover was salvaged and now serves as a wall hanging in the home of Gowen’s great-great-grandson, Paul Aldrich. Photograph courtesy of Paul Aldrich.
Gowen occupied a single room of the house behind the shop. The room was sparsely furnished with a cook stove that also provided heat, a lounge, a table, a large trunk that served for storage, and a bed. His financial circumstances were not what they’d been before Eliza’s death, but Gowen was able to keep the woodshed adjacent to his sleeping room, stocked with wood. He also made enough to hire a neighborhood woman to wash his clothes and occasionally prepare food for him when he tired of what fare he could muster himself.

The upstairs of the house was rented to Mrs. Polk and her three children whose voices and activities could be heard through the floor just as his activities could be heard above. This night, with his tenant and two of her progeny attending church services while the third slept upstairs, the house was silent but for the crackle of a fire in the stove and the turning of pages. At some point, Gowen removed his glasses, possibly as he considered preparing for bed. A knock at the shop door caused him to rise from his seat. His wig, glasses, and open book lay forgotten on the table as Gowen went to greet his unexpected visitor.

Photo of West Great Works
A view of the southeast side of West Great Works Village taken in 1912 from the site of the sulfite mill, under construction, looking toward the railroad depot. Much of the village has since disappeared under today’s sprawling Old Town mill complex. Photograph, possibly taken by Ora Buffum Stevens, provided courtesy of Rusty Stevens.

Horror Dawns

As the morning of March 11, 1879, dawned, the people of West Great Works Village went about the routine business of their lives. More than one customer stopped by Augustus Gowen’s shop that morning but the door remained bolted. Near 1 p.m., with no signs of activity in the shop, Gowen’s friends feared he was ill and needed help. A gathering of men nominated the young Polk boy from upstairs to be boosted through a window to check on the older man’s well-being.12 It’s unlikely the sight that greeted the boy upon entering Gowen’s room ever left the child. Returning to the window too frightened to communicate coherently, the Polk boy was removed and several men entered to find Gowen’s mangled body, his throat cut.

Published accounts of the crime scene vary and official coroner records documenting the murder scene and investigation could not be located in any municipal office or law-enforcement agency, library, local, or state historical repository. If any official records survive, they likely are among papers kept by Hartwell Lancaster, a successful Old Town farmer who became a deputy sheriff and served as the community’s coroner for over 20 years. Lancaster also owned rental property across the street from Gowen and presided over the investigation with the assistance of Old Town lawyer, David Norton. Esq. 

Reports agree that following the discovery of Gowen’s body, the men exited the house and called for the coroner. Despite the large crowd that gathered, entry to the crime scene was barred to all but Lancaster, the hastily impaneled jury, two doctors, and local reporters. Jurors inspecting the scene included Norton, Lorenzo Moor, Charles W. Lowell, E. W. Conant, Horatio W. Harris, and Jesse Prentiss.13

Gowen’s body lay on the floor, his head toward the foot of the bed and his feet slightly under the bed, according to the Bangor Daily Commercial. His body was still clothed and wearing boots,14 indicating he had yet to retire for the night. Neither report published in the Whig & Courier nor the Daily Commercial indicated if the body was supine or prone.

Detail map of West Great Works Village
Figure 1. Map showing the central portion of the Village of Great Works, Old Town from page 55 of the Atlas of Penobscot County Maine, 1875.
Local physicians, Dr. Jerome Elkins and Dr. Joseph Norcross examined the body and determined that Gowen received six major wounds including three violent blows to the back, top, and side of his head, two gashes across the throat, and one under his chin. The order in which the wounds were delivered is unclear though the victim’s heart beat long enough to cause extensive bleeding. The crushing blow to the top of Gowen’s head exposed brain matter but, according to both doctors, the wounds to the back and side of the head were of great enough force alone to have killed the man. There was also a smaller cut on one of Gowen’s cheeks, which may have resulted from him falling after one of the blows,15 possibly hitting his face on the corner of the table.

The coroner’s jury faced no questions about the instrument of Gowen’s murder. The Bangor Daily Commercial reported that “an ax besmeared with blood was found laying on the lounge. The blood was so plentiful on it that it stuck very tenaciously to the lounge and considerable force was required to release it.”16 While the Whig & Courier reported that the murder weapon was an ax owned by a man named Carr who dropped the tool off to be sharpened, the Daily Commercial countered with information that the ax was a “shop ax and had been in Mr. Gowen’s possession for some time.”17 The Daily Commercial further reported that the victim’s blunt force trauma was inflicted by the ax poll while the sharp blade was used to cut the man’s throat.18

Not published until completion of the coroner’s inquest was evidence that Gowen’s body was moved post-mortem. While the Bangor Daily Commercial does not discuss the presence of drag marks, it makes clear that Gowen’s head was approximately six feet away from a large blood pool that lay between the lounge and the bed. Supporting this evidence was Mrs. Polk’s account that she returned from church with her children a little past 9 p.m. and retired to bed about 10:30 p.m. Though she reported hearing nothing out of the ordinary during this period, Mrs. Polk told the investigators that “sometime in the night she awoke,” hearing the shop door open “and some person or persons pass through the shop to [Gowen’s] living room.”19

The reason for the murderer’s return to the scene was undetermined, though the jury suggested that it was at this time the body was moved. The supposition was that the guilty party returned to collect evidence left behind. It may also be surmised the perpetrator wished to confirm that Gowen was dead and unable to bear witness against his attacker.

Rumors and Speculation

West Great Works Village bloomed on the periphery of the large sawmill complex built by Rufus Dwinel—a wealthy Bangor lumber baron—and his primary partner M. P. Sawyer. The Great Works mill complex began in 1833 with the construction of a double-mill. The following year Dwinel, Sawyer & Co. built five more mills running as many as twelve saws simultaneously.20 In response to the demand for labor, families gravitated to Old Town, building homes near the mills.

According to the 1880 U.S. Census, a year after Gowen’s death, 58 families comprised of 284 people including borders, inhabited a total of 54 dwellings in the village of West Great Works.21 With the great boom days of lumber past them, working-class families that prospered at mid-century began to struggle economically. On average in 1880, each West Great Works household included at least one millworker or domestic servant reporting an estimated three months of unemployment in the previous year.

Augustus Gown was living in a state of poverty in 1879. Both Bangor newspapers reported that Gowen was well-known and well-liked in Orono and Old Town. The Bangor Daily Commercial, however, opted to point out his turn of fortune, “He has lived by himself in the rear part of the shop, his wife having died some years before and also his children. He has of late years been in poor circumstances and has barely earned enough to live.” 22

Despite Gowen’s reported economic state, the coroner found a small roll of bills on his person, pointing away from robbery as the potential motive for the murder. Aside from the attack, Gowen’s room remained otherwise undisturbed. His wig, book, and glasses lay on the table. The room was neat and the bed made. The only evidence of disturbance noted by the jury, beyond that of the body, was blood spatter on one wall and the presence of two footprints on the foot of the bed as though the perpetrator stepped onto the bed in order to step over either it or Gowen’s body. Though the front door of the shop was locked, the door from Gowen’s room into the woodshed was unbarred, as was the door from the woodshed into the backyard.

When Gowen’s body was initially discovered, his death was thought to be suicide but the extent of physical damage made foul play undeniable. Word spread like wildfire through Old Town and Orono, and soon an estimated 400 to 500 curiosity-seekers milled about the village, trampling potential evidence. As in any excited crowd, speculation soon sparked rumors that spread like oil on water.

Both the Whig & Courier and the Daily Commercial published rumors about an alleged tangle of love affairs involving Gowen, his 32-year-old laundress and neighbor Mary Etta Patten, her husband Alonzo Patten, and Walter Riggs. Patten, a Civil War Veteran with a reputation as a combative drunk, was arrested for beating his wife in 1877. Refusing to back down in the face of domestic violence, Mary Etta pressed charges and Patten was fined $15 and sentenced to six months in the Penobscot County Jail. 23 Taking exception to the turn of events, Patten abandoned his wife and children. At some undetermined point thereafter, Riggs moved in.

Though both Patten and Riggs were detained for questioning on March 11, there was no evidence to charge the pair and they were released the following day. Patten minced no words when he addressed the rumors in a Letter to the Editor published in the Bangor Daily Commercial on March 13: 24

Mr. Editor:
Allow me to state to the public and the citizens of Oldtown in particular, that on Monday night I was arrested as one who was connected with the murder of Augustus Gowen. Nothing being proven against me, I was discharged from arrest. I have always been on friendly terms with the late Mr. Gowen and was not jealous of him or anyone else, for when I separated from my wife, she became to me as one dead and buried.
Alonzo Patten.
For the story of Alonzo Patten's life, read Forgotten Soldier, Forgotten Man.

A woman with the last name of Martin appears to be the best candidate for Person Zero in the proliferation of gossip swirling about the murder case. Renting a room just down the hall from Mary Etta Patten and Walter Riggs, Ms. Martin claimed that she, herself, anticipated a visit from Augustus Gowen the night of the murder. Having initially borne witness against Riggs, Martin later claimed she witnessed two Native American men entering Gowen’s shop at 7:30 p.m.

“The Martin woman was very outspoken that one of the murderers of Gowen was an Indian whom she knew,”25 the Bangor Daily Commercial reported. With Martin’s claim bolstered by a tale told by a somewhat notorious resident of Indian Island, Newell Lacoot of Perry, Maine was briefly detained before being released.

Detail map of murder scene
Figure 2: Neighborhood detail from a map of Great Works Village, Old Town from page 55 of the Atlas of Penobscot County Maine, 1875. The Erastus Gowen house, where the murder occurred, is highlighted in red and a red line depicts a possible path of escape taken by the murderers based on witness descriptions published in contemporary newspaper reports.

Witnesses and Evidence

The findings of the coroner’s inquest published in the Bangor Daily Commercial, notes testimony by three credible witnesses, Mr. and Mrs. Berry, who resided in the Seth Rowe house on the northwest corner of the block,26 (See Figure 2) and a “young lady”—possibly one of William Bowman’s daughters. The neighbors, like Mrs. Polk and her children, were returning from the Baptist Church service at approximately 9 p.m. As the Berry’s separated from her, the young woman continued toward the Bowman residence and was startled by two men exiting the woodshed behind the Gowen house, starting in her direction. Frightened, the woman raced home. As she reached her door, the woman turned to see the two men cross Main Street and run in the opposite direction.27

The young woman’s account was corroborated by Mr. Berry who, upon arriving home, directed his wife inside but lingered outside himself. At the sound of footsteps crunching in the snow, Mr. Berry turned to see two men cross between Gowen’s place and his own. He called to his wife, who looked through a window, and together the couple watched the men dressed in dark clothing, one taller than the other, cross Main Street. Turning northeast, the pair ran through an empty lot toward the railroad tracks. Given the reported timing, it is possible that the sound of Mrs. Polk and her children returning from church caused the perpetrators to flee into the night where their departure was witnessed by neighbors.

The throng of foot traffic following the discovery of the murder and the impact of an early spring rain made identification of the men’s footprints a nearly impossible task. Investigators, however, determined from prints closest to the Gowen house that one man appeared to wear overshoes while the other wore moccasins; both being common forms of footwear the discovery was not particularly revealing. In the end, the darkly-dressed men escaped apprehension and as time marched on, the murder of Augustus Gowen went cold and unsolved.
Photograph of Eliza Gowen gravestone
The Gowen family lot in Riverside Cemetery, Orono, Maine, Range 2E, Lot 62, contains the marked grave of Eliza H. (Joy) Gowen and the unmarked grave of Augustus Gowen. The site also potentially contains the body of Caroline, a daughter listed in town records but not in family records. The bodies of the couple’s daughter Martha and three grandchildren rest nearby. Photograph by Kimberly J. Sawtelle.
In the days following his death, Gowen’s body was laid to rest in an unmarked grave beside Eliza and—possibly—their daughter, Caroline. Erastus and Luther Gowen, each facing their own financial challenges, did not provide a marker for their brother. Gowen’s granddaughter, Mary Crowell whose deceased mother and siblings lay buried nearby, put away the horror of her grandfather’s murder and the sordid rumors it spawned. The case went cold and the painful event transformed into a family secret so closely guarded that even Gowen’s great-great-grandson, genealogist Paul Aldrich, was unaware of his great-great-grandfather’s tragic end until contacted for information as part of the research for this story.


I extend my sincere gratitude to Paul Aldrich for his insight and information about his family. It was Paul who was able to connect the Main Street cited in the newspaper narrative with Erastus’ property in West Great Works Village rather than Old Town proper; and who provided me with a scan of the village map from the 1875 Atlas of Penobscot County, allowing me to put into spatial context a neighborhood that disappeared long ago. I thank Paul for his enthusiasm, sense of humor, and for providing the family photos that illustrate this post.

I thank Eisso Atzema, of the Old Town Museum, for fielding my many questions about the OTM archives and for providing the reference to Paul Aldrich’s 2003 article published in The Maine Genealogist which gave me an avenue to track down the author.

I thank Chief Scott Wilcox of the Old Town Police Department; Assistant Attorney General Lara Nomani; and Lindsey Chasteen from the Office of Chief Medical Examiner for responding to my inquiries about records pertaining to obscure, 19th Century coroner inquests. I thank Desiree Butterfield Nagy of Fogler Library Special Collections; Earle Shettleworth, Maine State Historian; Betsy Paradis of Bangor Public Library; and Helen Tutwiler of the Maine State Archives, for assisting me in my search for historic images of West Great Works Village. Finally, I thank Rusty Stevens for providing the only photograph I’ve seen of a portion of West Great Works Village as of the date this blog was posted.

1Aldrich, Paul. Personal Communication, 28 Jun 2018.
2Typescript Riverside Cemetery MSL:974.1 v074r, 1993.
3Aldrich, Paul. Personal communication, 28 Jun 2018. Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. (NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
5Aldrich, Paul. Personal communication, 28 Jun 2018.
6Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Friday, June 20, 1856; Issue 302
7Aldrich, Paul M. “The Joys of Good Deeds: Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove the Parents of Eliza H. Joy of Clinton and Orono, Maine.” In The Maine Genealogist, Vol. 25. No. 4., 2003, pp. 165-176
8Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Monday, March 28, 1864; Issue 228
9Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Thursday, February 14, 1861, Issue 193
10Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Wednesday, December 16, 1868; Issue 310
11Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Wednesday, January 25, 1871, Issue 21
12Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, Maine), Tuesday, March 11, 1879, Issue 59
14Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Tuesday, March 11, 1879; Issue 60
15Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, Maine), Tuesday, March 11, 1879, Issue 59
19Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, Maine), Wednesday, March 19, 1879, Issue 66
20Norton, David. Sketches of the Town of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine from its Earliest Settlement, to 1879; with Biographical Sketches. Bangor: S. G. Robinson, 1881, p. 35.
21Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C., pp.3-8.
22Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, Maine), Tuesday, March 11, 1879, Issue 59
23Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, Saturday, August 18, 1877; Issue 195
24Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, Maine), Thursday, March 13, 1879, Issue 61
25Bangor Daily Commercial (Bangor, Maine), Wednesday, March 19, 1879, Issue 66
26Sherman W. A. “West Great Works, Town of Old Town.” Map published in Atlas of Penobscot County Maine. From Recent and Actual Surveys & Records. New York: Comstock & Cline, 1875, p. 55.
27Op. Cit. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Forgotten Soldier, Forgotten Man

Photograph of a young, unidentified
Union Soldier from Maine.
Alonzo Patten was dealt a lousy hand. It isn’t that he didn’t try to do the right thing—at least once upon a time; it’s just that this is how life shuffled the deck and ultimately, how Alonzo played his cards. His was a life easily recognized, even in the 21st Century. Alonzo was born into a set of human circumstances that play on a continuous loop for a significant number of economically-challenged Americans of low social status. These circumstances ensure that there’s always going to be a measure of forgotten souls in every generation, regardless of their choices.

Childhood Years.
Alonzo Patten was born in Etna, Maine in 1842, the first child of Charles W. Patten and Hannah (Laurence or Lawrence).  Though the couple married in Bangor in February 1840, an extensive search of U.S. Federal Census records for 1840 and 1850 revealed no secrets about the lives or occupations of Charles or Hannah.  Charles’ name first appears in The Bangor Whig and Courier in 1858 for the theft of an oxen belonging to prominent Bangor citizen, Benjamin Reed.  As part of his act of larceny, Charles moved Hannah and their four children, including 16-year-old Alonzo, to Lowell, Massachusetts and assumed the last name, Warren.1  
The economic Panic of 1857 caused considerable unemployment in the American Northeast until 1859,2 so it is possible that Charles was unable or unwilling to find employment in Maine and relocation to Lowell by whatever means necessary, would have afforded Charles the opportunity to find work for himself—or at the very least—for three of his four children in textile mills or tanneries.3
Tracked to Lowell by Bangor police, Charles was arrested and returned to Maine.  Hannah and the children followed in his wake, moving to Old Town. In August 1859, at age 37, Charles was tried and sentenced to three years hard labor at Thomaston State Prison,4 leaving Alonzo and his eldest sister, Harriet to find work and prevent the broken household from sinking into abject poverty.  
At age 18, Alonzo was working “on lumber,” according to the 1860 U.S. Census of Old Town, Maine.5 His earnings combined with those of 16-year-old Harriet, who worked as a domestic servant, sustained their mother and younger siblings, who now included two-month-old Charles Jr., conceived just prior to Charles Sr.’s departure for prison.  To mask the shame of being married to a convicted cattle rustler, Hannah claimed widow status in the census.

A few able bodied men wanted to fill up Captain Cass' Company of Volunteers now in barracks and about to join the 7th Regiment.
Advertisement from the Bangor Whig
and Courier promoting an enhanced
bounty for volunteers enlisting with
the Seventh Maine Regiment.
Shouldering the financial responsibility of maintaining his family, Alonzo did not succumb to the first wave of patriotism that swept through central Maine at the start of the U.S. Civil War in April 1861.  By August of that year, however, as his father’s release date neared, Alonzo responded to the call for Bangor volunteers to the Seventh Maine Infantry which offered an increased bounty.6 Though criticized by Whig and Courier editors as a “disgraceful exhibition,”7 a Copperhead heckler at a rally for the Seventh Maine may not have been far from the mark when accusing new recruits of enrolling for the bounty money as a means of preventing their own starvation.  
Reporting to Augusta, Alonzo claimed rights to a bounty that paid $22 when he mustered and offered $13 per month plus rations, in addition to an extra $3 in rations per month “amounting in all to $16 per month.”8 This figure represented an increase over the $11 per month offered in July, as the flow of enthusiastic volunteers waned and communities struggled to meet the requisite quotas.  When he mustered out, Alonzo was due to receive an additional $100 for his service but it turned out there was no guarantee of payment. Ultimately, the Veteran was forced to sue the City of Bangor to recover $300 in bounty he was due “by virtue of his enlistment to fill her quota.”9
From Boy to Man
For the first seven months of his service in the Union Army, Private Alonzo Patten and 1,504 other members of the Seventh Maine served relatively light duty.  After training in Augusta, the Regiment departed by train for drills and duty with Dix’s Division in Baltimore, Maryland where, like so many northern regiments, sickness swept through the camp.  From October 25, 1861 until March 1862, members of the Seventh were assigned to Davidson's Brigade, W. F. Smith's Division, Army of the Potomac. The Regiment was moved to Washington, D.C. for duty at Georgetown Heights until the men were relocated to an encampment at Lewinsville, Virginia.
In March 1862, the Seventh Maine became part of the brigade’s advance toward Manassas attached to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac. The new assignment announced the end of innocence for the soldiers of the Seventh Maine and for 19-year-old Alonzo Patten.  As part of two divisions under General Erasmus D. Keyes, the Seventh Maine joined the Peninsula campaign and saw combat for the first time on April 4, 1862. 

Map of Penninsula campaign
Map of the Peninsula Campaign showing the location of Lee's Mill where
Alonzo Patten and his company faced 54 straight hours of heavy Confederate
artillery fire and numerous skirmishes. Click on the map to enlarge view.
Poor weather and rough terrain lead Union leaders to overestimate the strength of Confederate forces at Fredericksburg. Politics, reluctant officers, and the unveiling of the C.S.S. Virginia—converted from the U.S.S. Merrimack scuttled by Union forces in Norfolk in 186110—combined to cast long, dubious shadows over the campaign by the Army of the Potomac. Still, on April 4, General George McClellan ordered the army to move. The Seventh Maine marched toward Young’s Mill and when April 5 dawned with cold, heavy rain, the ground was churned into a quagmire, slowing the Union’s advance.
The scene was described in a May 7th letter from Maine Captain Charles D. Gilmore to The Bangor Whig and Courier:
Our regiment were in the advance, as skirmishers to the left wing of the army, April 5. From Young's Mills to the line of the enemy's fortifications, this side of Yorktown, we drove the rebel pickets before us, without any loss to ourselves. We arrived at their works at half past twelve, when brisk firing commenced and was continued until dark. A continual picket fire was kept up until the 7th, when our regiment was relieved, having been under fire for 54 hours. Our casualties in that time were two killed, two taken prisoners (Lieut. [Timothy] Swan and a bugler named Brown) and several wounded.
From that time forward our regiment remained within range of the enemy shells, and were in some skirmish or exciting picket duty until we got well acquainted with the whistle of rifle balls, the whiz and explosion of shells and the rattle of grape canister [sic].  Seeing the great amount of lead and iron it took to destroy one man served to make our men courageous and bold, and fitted them well for the charge or nearer approach to the rascals.11
Historic photograph of soldiers standing beside mortar guns
Federal Siege Guns Yorktown,
Virginia.1863. 13-inch mortars.
Gilmore's letter glosses over the series of violent skirmishes that took place when Rebel forces of 150 to 500 men repeatedly attacked Union troops. Nor does he mention the cold, heavy rains that plagued the battle which required Union soldiers to lay in cold mud with orders that no campfires be lit to provide warmth or light for fear of drawing Rebel fire during the 54 hours of bombardment endured.12 
Captain Gilmore was wounded about 5 p.m., April 15 at Garrow Ridge, while in command of the advance picket guard. His May 7th letter recounts witnessing Commander William Farrar Smith attempting to advance a small force of Vermonters across Dam No. 1, against McClellen's orders. As Gilmore cleared a fence on his horse, he was injured as a shell exploded beneath him. Six days later, Alonzo Patten received a near fatal shot in the side.13
“Alonzo Patten, Co. C,” Gilmore reported, “supposed to be mortally wounded, but hopes are now entertained of his recovery.”

File card with handwritten record of Alonzo Patten reenlistment
Alonzo Patten's record of service with 1st Maine Cavalry. His physical description
indicates he is 5-feet, 9-inches tall with a dark complexion, sandy hair, and
blue eyes. Click on the image to enlarge the view.

 Surviving his wounds, Alonzo was discharged for disability on August 4, 1862 but after returning to Old Town to recuperate, he reenlisted on August 17, 1863, joining Co. B. of the 1st Maine Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. He was soon transferred to Company D, 1st Regiment D.C. Cavalry where he started out as the camp baker but quickly received a promotion to Quartermaster Sergeant on January 1, 1864.14  As Quartermaster Sergeant, Alonzo was responsible for all the Company’s property, wagons, horses, ordnance, and provisions. The promotion meant he was no longer required to fight on the front line but remain in camp, protecting the wagons.
Unfortunately, the responsibility appears to have been too much for Alonzo and by May 1, 1864, he voluntarily resigned his post and returned to the rank of Private. Records of the D.C. Cavalry provide evidence that Alonzo’s condition was in decline as he was repeatedly hospitalized with no discussion as to his symptoms. He was back on the field of battle at the Siege of Petersburg, however, when he was reported missing in action on June 29, 1864. He returned to his Company on July 3, apparently having returned to the hospital at some point during or after the battle.15 Following Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Alonzo completed his period of enlistment, discharging for a final time, August 1, 1865. 16
Life as a Veteran
While men like Captain Gilmore and thousands of others who served in the Union or Confederate Armies were able to endure the physical and psychological trauma of battle and return to civilian life, others faced an existence permanently altered by physical disability or post-traumatic stress. Just as with U. S. Veterans in the 21st Century, the latter group of men often used alcohol to self-medicate against horrific nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and all-consuming self-doubt.
According to Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD, Senior Advisor and former Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD, “Accounts of psychological symptoms following military trauma date back to ancient times,” but it wasn’t until 1952 that “gross stress reaction” was identified as a real, psychological impact for individuals and not simply a “moral failing.”17
For Alonzo Patten, this recognition came a century too late.
Despite any potential intentions to support or preserve his family, following Alonzo’s return from service in 1862 and Charles Sr.’s release from prison, the Patten sisters began to scatter to find work or marry. Family discord may have even contributed to Alonzo’s decision to reenlist in 1863.
As Alonzo served his country, his immediate family disintegrated. By 1864, Harriet was dead. In January 1865, Charles Sr. won a petition for divorce from Hannah.18 Following his return to Maine, Alonzo’s youngest sister Delania married for the first time in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1866.19 She subsequently divorced and remarried. Alonzo’s middle sister, Emma married in Hallowell in March 1868, only to succumb to death in late July of the same year. The fates of Hannah, Charles W. Sr., and Charles W. Jr. are unknown as of this writing.
Alonzo remained in Old Town, working as a lumberman and fighting to recover the bounty never received from the City of Bangor for his enlistment. The matter was likely contested due to Alonzo’s subsequent service with the 1st Maine and D.C. Cavalries but “after the testimony was out a verdict pro forma was rendered for the plaintiff.”20 Flush with this windfall, Alonzo married Mary Etta Danforth, the daughter of William Danforth, an Old Town peddler. By January 1870, the couple welcomed their first child, Mary Etta who eventually went by the name Etta May. In 1872, the couple’s son Albert Alonzo was born, followed by their final child, Mellie R. H. Patten in 1875.
As his family grew in size, Alonzo witnessed an economic downturn in the Maine lumber industry resulting from the Depression of 1873–79. At the end of the 1870s, significant numbers of men, including Veterans, began to face long stretches of unemployment in Old Town. According to the Old Town Annual Report, Alonzo began seeking support from the town in 1877.21 The public record indicates that leading up to this time, Alonzo began drinking heavily, increasing the social and economic stress on his family until the evening of Thursday, August 16, 1877, when he was arrested for beating his wife.22 Unlike many women of the time, Mary Etta stood her ground and pressed charges. Alonzo was found guilty, fined $15, and sentenced to six months in Penobscot County Jail.
Black and white photograph of a 19th Century washer woman
Unidentified washer woman
standing at a wooden wash tub.
         To provide for her children, Mary Etta began taking in laundry and boarders, and cooking for widowers in the community. Nonetheless, the incident marked the family’s descent into the wretched poverty Alonzo staved off by joining the army when his own father was imprisoned.

By the time 1879 rolled around, the once responsible teenager, respected soldier, and wounded Veteran was no longer a hero in the eyes of his community. Through habitual, excess public consumption of alcohol in temperance-minded times, Alonzo Patten became Old Town, Maine’s most prominent and notorious town drunk—a disruptive, pugnacious, wife-beating derelict whose actions caused callous tongues to cluck and wag. Gossip and his own alcohol-fueled, anti-social behavior eventually made Alonzo a prime suspect in the vicious axe murder of Augustus Gowen in March 1879.23 It was a crime of which he was innocent but, human nature and prejudice being what it is, Alonzo, his wife, and children were marked with more shame than any of them truly deserved.
Descent Toward Death
False accusations of promiscuity against Mary Etta and Alonzo’s characterization as a mean-tempered drunk were published in the Whig and Courier following the Gowen murder, decimating the family’s already tattered reputation and making both members of the couple unemployable. The family was thrown into deeper poverty, forcing Mary Etta to leave her 8-year-old son at the Old Town Poor Farm24 in 1880, as a way to feed and clothe the child while she continued the struggle to support her daughters using Alonzo’s Civil War pension.
In 1881, Alonzo and his children, Albert and Etta May, lived on the Poor Farm25 together until April, when Alonzo abandoned his family outright by moving to the National Home For Disabled Soldiers at Togus.26 There he signed his pension over to the institution in exchange for food, clothing, and housing.27 This action deprived his wife of even this small income and in 1883, 6-year-old Mellie joined her siblings on the Poor Farm.

Civil War Veterans, residents of Togus Veterans' Home passing in review
while returning from cemetery, Memorial Day. Click on image to enlarge view.
Photo from: Eastern Branch, National Home for D. V. S., Maine. ca. 1910
 Though he sought shelter, and possibly escape, among his comrades at the bucolic setting of Togus where he could be fortified by medicinal whiskey and beer, Alonzo’s record points to continued erratic behavior between 1881 and 1885 as he applied for a furlough he failed to exercise, then sought discharge only to return, and finally be dropped from the rolls altogether on May 20, 1885 following his divorce in Bangor.28 Aside from filing for divorce, alleging three years of abandonment by Mary Etta,29 and the records from Togus, Alonzo’s activities during this period are largely undocumented.  The location of his death was recorded in a ledger at Augusta Mental Health Institute on October 8, 1885, though this information was unknown until The Maine Cemetery Project was granted access to selected hospital records in the 2000s.30 Mary Etta, who likely lived with family members after 1883, also died in 1885 and is buried in the Danforth family lot at Forest Hill Cemetery, Old Town.
The Forgotten Man
    Extensive research has yet to reveal the location of Alonzo Patten’s grave. Federal records show that a gravestone was contracted for Alonzo in 1889, to be delivered to “Old Town Cemetery.”31 A search of available online records for all cemeteries in Old Town failed to reveal a location for Alonzo’s burial. Neither do records for pauper burials in Augusta hint at a possible location for the Civil War Veteran’s grave. Togus, itself, even lost track of Alonzo’s whereabouts, indicating in records that Albert Patten notified the Soldier’s Home of his father’s death by letter dated May 24, 1898. Credit for Alonzo’s unclaimed pension was paid out to his youngest daughter, Mellie, who lived in West Dresden at the time.
    While it is impossible to diagnose Alonzo in retrospect, the historical record makes it clear that he endured adverse childhood experiences including the incarceration of his father in 1859. By age 19, he suffered through the trauma of a prolonged battle under heavy fire and experienced a near fatal gunshot wound. Though he survived to return home, Alonzo reenlisted with the Cavalry, spending much of this period of service in and out of the hospital until returning to Old Town again in 1865. Court news reported in the local newspaper, points to Alonzo’s decline into alcoholism, unemployablility, and poverty until his death at the mental health institute in 1885.
    By 2018 American social standards, Alonzo earned Hero Status for having served in the Army to defend and preserve the nation. Among his contemporaries, he was a reprobate. A drunken wife-beater who abandoned his children to the support of the Old Town community. Today, Alonzo, like so many with whom he served, lays forgotten in an equally forgotten grave, a man who spent his life fumbling with the cards he was dealt and trying to survive.
End Notes
1Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Monday, November 15, 1858; Issue 117, p. 2.
2”Panic of 1858.” Retrieved from Wikipedia
3United States Bureau of Labor, Charles Patrick Neill. (1913). Report on Condition of Women and Child Wage-Earners in the United States. Vol. XVIII: Employment of Women and Children in Selected Industries. Washington: Government Printing Office.
4Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Wednesday, August 3, 1859; Issue 26, p. 2
51860 U.S. Census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.
6Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Saturday, August 10, 1861; Issue 35, p. 2.
7Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Monday, August 19, 1861; Issue 42, p. 2.
8Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Saturday, August 10, 1861; Issue 35, p. 2.
9Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Friday, October 22, 1869; Issue 252, p. 2.
10The Civil War Trust. (n.d.). "The Peninsula Campaign: From Hampton Roads to Seven Pines." Retrieved from
11Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Friday, May 16, 1862; Issue 270, p. 2.
12Fred C. Ainsworth and Joseph W. Kirkley. (1902). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Additions and Corrections to Series I--Volume II. Washington, D.C.
13Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
14Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the District of Columbia. pg 6.  National Archives, Washington, D.C.
15Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the District of Columbia. pg 13.  National Archives, Washington, D.C.
16Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957. Database with images. FamilySearch. : 14 June 2016. State Archives, Augusta.
17Matthew J. Friedman. (31 May 2017). “History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5.” Retrieved from
18Maine, Divorce Records, 1798–1891. Augusta, Maine: Maine State Archives.
19Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
20Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Friday, October 22, 1869; Issue 252, p. 2.
21Old Town (Me.), Annual Report of the Town of Old Town for the Year 1877.
22Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Saturday, August 18, 1877; Issue 195, p. 3.
23Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Wednesday, March 12, 1879; Issue 61, p. 3.
24Old Town (Me.), Annual Report of the Town of Old Town for the Year 1880-81.
25Old Town (Me.), Annual Report of the Town of Old Town for the Year 1880-81.
26Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
27Hartwell, John. (16 Dec. 2016). “National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Togus, Maine.” Discussion in Medical Care of the Civil War. Retrieved from
28Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
29Maine, Divorce Records, 1798–1891. Augusta, Maine: Maine State Archives.
30Remembrance List. Compiled by The Maine Cemetery Project from Augusta Mental Health Institute ledgers, Maine State Archives. Amistad, Portland, ME
31Card Records of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, ca. 1879-ca. 1903; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1845, 22 rolls); Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92; National Archives, Washington, D.C.