Biography of Isaac Smith

From Skowhegan on the Kennebec
by Louise Helen Coburn (Skowhegan, Me.: Printed by the Independent-Reporter Press, 1941)

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Isaac Smith was one of the boys who came to Canaan in 1771 with Peter Heywood and Joseph Weston, and spent the winter by themselves in the wilderness. He was the son of Abraham of Sudbury, who married at Concord, Jan. 22, 1750, Rhoda Wheeler, daughter of Francis and Mary (Merriam) of Concord. They had one daughter Marah, who married Peter Heywood Jr., and the son Isaac, born Sudbury Apr. 9, 1754. It was the family tradition that the father was killed at Ticonderoga. He must have died before 1764, in which year Rhoda Smith married, 2d, William Barker of Acton. In 1769 Isaac Smith chose his step-father to be his guardian. It was coubtless the name of the step-father and guardian that gave rise to the family tradition that Isaac's father was William. The boy soon afterwards came into the household of Peter Heywood of Concord -- according to tradition was bound out -- and was a member of the Heywood family when Peter became a pioneer in Canaan.

Isaac Smith married Hannah Heywood, daughter of Peter, born Concord, Aug. 11, 1759, and they had 12 children: Abraham, married Mehitable Pollard, daughter of Timothy; Rhoda, Kendall Pollard; Asa, Jane Cowen; Isaac Jr., Mary Hight, and lived in Hartland; Elijah, Abigail Lombard, and lived on the first farm on Hilton Hill; Polly, Daniel Lombard; John, Mary Mitchell; Sarah, Samuel Lang, one of the early settlers of Palmyra; and William, Mary Hilton. Three children died young.

Isaac Smith purchased Oliver Wilson's lot and sold portions of it, and bought and sold other pieces of land. He had in the early 80's a grist-mill at the mouth of the Wesserunsett, which seems to have been the first in the town. There was a dam across the stream and a mill-pond, and people on the upper shores complained that they were deprived of the privilege of fishing, and carried their grievance to the General Court. Isaac and other inhabitants of the Plantation petitioned the Court, representing that the grist-mill was a public necessity, being the only mill at which grinding could be had within seven miles; that no fish were known to run up the stream, except a few of the last run of small salmon; that the few up-stream settlers could easliy fish out of the great River; that the dam had been very expensive; and prayed that Smith might keep his pond and be freed from the penalty of the law. The petition was signed by ten leading citizens of the town, headed by Dr. Whitaker. Isaac seems to have been allowed to continue, and in 1783 sold the mill to Bryce McLellan. In the 90's Isaac was operating the mills on Skowhegan Island owned by his father-in-law, and having in this work the assistance of his son Abraham.

Isaac and his wife made their home with her father, Peter Heywood Sr., and it was probably understood that the farm was to come to Isaac. In 1803, after the father was too ill to make the transfer, Peter Heywood Jr. and Oliver Wilson and wife signed a deed conveying to Isaac their claim to the paternal farm and all other property of Peter Sr., and Isaac signed a bond of $2000 to provide for the father and mother during their lives.

Isaac Smith was called in 1789 lieutenant, and in later years was always mentioned as Captain, Titles obtained from service in the militia.

A few years after the death of his father-in-law, Capt. Smith sold the farm to Nathaniel Shaw and removed to Palmyra. He was treasurer of Palmyra, 1807-08, and first selectman 1808 and 1812. His wife Hannah died May 11, 1811, and he married, 2d, Sally, daughter of Samuel Whitman, widow of Benjamin Dexter, and mother of five children. She was born Abington, Mass., Jan. 30, 1772. Isaac and Sally had children: Hannah married, 1st, Ezekiel H. Varney, and, 2d, Benjamin W. Goddard; Benjamin Everett, married Lydia R. Baxter and wnet to California; Lydia Ann, married Solomon C. Baxter.

Isaac Smith died Mar. 27, 1835. Sally smith died July 12, 1846, in Burnham, doubtless in the home of her youngest daughter who lived in that town.

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Margaret Marie Smith

Isaac Smith was tall and very blond. His deep-set eyes were blue, his light-brown hair thick and waving. Family tradition sets his height at six feet, four. He was skilled with tools and ingenious in contriving such things as he needed for the comfort of his family. He had great strength in his hands and wrists, and was considered the best shot in the settlement.

Isaac was a little boy not more than six when his father was killed at Ticonderoga, leaving a young widow with two children, Isaac and a sister. His mother soon bound the lad out to Peter Heywood, remarried, and with her daughter went to Boston to live. If Isaac ever heard anything from his mother after he came up into the wilderness, he never told his childrne. Perhaps this breaking off of his own home ties had something to do with making him the silent, reserved man his children remembered.

When Peter Heywood came to take his part in establishing a land of promise in the unknown and untried country of the upper Kennebec he brought young Isaac with him. Now the young man had ceased to be just a bound boy and was as one of their own. Already he and Hannah Heywood were sweethearts. Shortly after the settlement was started they were married. At that time there was no settled minister in the place. As often as he could a missionary minister traveled along the whole length of the valley, stopping at each little settlement to comfort the sad, baptize the children, marry the young men and women, and preach the word of God. it was told of the wedding of Isaac and Hannah that when th eminister reached Heywood's the Squire went to the door and shouted "Isaac." Isaac came from his work carrying a goad-stick in his hand, and Hannah came from the kitchen with her sleeves rolled up and flour upon her arms, and so they were married.

Isaac liked to hunt and to roam the woods. Two amusing stories are told of his prowess in that line. One very cold winter day Isaac went out looking for game. He came upon the largest moose he had ever seen. He wounded the animal but failed to kill him. Then began a long chase. Finally miles from home he killed the moose. It was now late in the afternoon. The sun had disappeared under thick clouds and it was bitterly cold. Isaac did not think it wise to try to reach the settlement in the bitter cold and dark night. So he skinned the moose, built a fire, and rolling himself up in the raw-hide wnet to sleep. While he slept it grew even colder and began to snow. When he awoke he was covered with the new-fallen snow, and the green moose-hide had frozen stiff, holding him a prisoner. He found that he could move one hand just enough to draw his hunting knife and turn it point outward against the skin. Slowly and painfully, an inch at a time, he cut a slit in the hide, and after hours of work crawled out of the trap which held him.

the other story has to do with the only indian uprising that the people of Old Canaan ever faced. With some reason the settlers feared that the Indians of Old Point meant to attack them; so they made arrangements with the people at the Fort down river to come to their aid if they summoned them. One day there was an alarm given. The people gathered and Isaac with two others was sent out scouting. The young men arranged that they should go separately. If any one saw signs of the Indians he was to fire two shots and the others were instantly to rush, the one to the settlement to warn the people to gather in the stockade, and the other to the Fort to get help. Each was to strike out for himself after the alarm. They scouted about for hours and saw no signs of Indians. But at last Isaac saw a big bear. Forgetting the signal he fired at the bear. Too late he remembered. He rushed for the settlement but when he got there the alarm had been given. As swiftly as possible he set out for the Fort, but was met by the soldiers hastening to the relief of the little settlement. Isaac never heard the last of his bear.

Isaac prospered and, at his oldest son's marriage, built him the first frame house at the Falls. Before he left Canaan to go to Palmyra, he gave to Mehitable, Abraham's wife, the little silver pin which was all he had of this father's. He told her of his father, and said that the pin had passed through many generations in England, always going from the oldest son to the oldest son.