John and Solomon Berry – Early Settlers at Flagstaff, Maine

At the time of William Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase, the Million Acres included  Township No. 4 in the 4th Range West of the Kennebec River – Flagstaff, now in Franklin County. Bingham’s Estate records contain valuable information about early settlers in each of their townships. Of relevance here are John and Solomon Berry, among the first settlers at Flagstaff — ancestors of John J. Lander who was a businessman in Bingham, Maine.

martha_lander

Martha A. (Berry) Lander – Lander Family Photo Collection

Martha A. Berry, John Lander’s mother, was born in New Portland 14 June 1830, to Solomon and Margaret (Drummond) Berry. She married Charles Pike Lander of Kingfield. Her 1923 obituary contains interesting details about her childhood and family. One of the most fascinating is that, when she was just two weeks old, her parents took her with them as they hiked over Minister Hill, to make their home on the Dead River at Flagstaff.

According to the obituary, “Their first home for a period of six weeks was in Arnold’s camp at Flagstaff, and here they lived until her father got his barn built. The framed house which was built at that time is still standing.” Solomon and Margaret had two more children born while they were at Flagstaff. Family tradition says that Solomon was murdered there in about 1835, but no grave, or account of his death, has been found. It was said that the family suspected a certain individual, but couldn’t prove his guilt. The name of the suspect is not known.

Martha Lander Obituary

Obituary of Martha Berry Lander, Kingfield, Maine, 1923

Research has uncovered important sources verifying the basic details of the family’s move to Flagstaff.  John Berry and his wife, Polly Bryant, originally settled in New Vineyard, where they appear in census records for 1810 and 1820. John and his son Solomon bonded to purchase several lots at Flagstaff from the Estate of William Bingham in 1828, as shown in the account books of Col. John Black, agent for the Trustees.

berry accounts

Berry Accounts from John Black’s Ledger

In 1828, Col. Black hired Eleazer Coburn to survey this township into lots, which resulted in the following map, showing parcels reserved for settlers. Note that Martha’s grandfather, William Drummond, also owned a large parcel in the 3rd Range, south of Flagstaff.

1828 Flaggstaff Map

1828 Coburn Survey of Township 4, Range 4, West of the Kennebec – Detail

The 1830 census shows John and Solomon Berry as heads of separate households at “Berry’s Plantation, Flagstaff, No. 4, 4th Range.” Solomon’s census record shows one male 15-19 years old, one female 20-29, and one female child under 5 years old. This child was, undoubtedly, the newborn Martha. Solomon was evidently a few years younger than Margaret, who was born in Cullaigh, Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1806.  Solomon’s parents lived near him, as did Isaiah Taylor,^ who married Solomon’s sister, Margaret Berry.

The Berrys did not complete their purchase contracts with the Bingham Estate, and their bonds were taken over by others.  John Berry’s bond was paid up by William Allen of Norridgewock in 1841, and deeded to Rufus Viles. Solomon’s bond was held by John Craigin,* then of Embden, who completed payment in 1840. With the death of Solomon, Margaret and her three young children moved back to New Portland, where she married James Cowan and had three more children.

John Berry seemed to vanish after the 1830 census. Though there were several men of that name in Maine after 1830, none is a good match. New evidence suggests that John and his family left Maine for Rives Township, Jackson County, Michigan, where a John Berry appears in the 1840 census. Correlating evidence lies in the fact that several members of the Wing and Wyman families had moved to Jackson County at about the same time. Samuel Wing and his wife Hannah Wyman had moved to Rives before 1840. Members of the Wyman and Wing families had lived in Township No. 3, Range 3, West of the Kennebec River, near the Berrys, in 1830. And Polly Berry’s nephew, Sylvanus Bryant, also moved to Jackson County. More research is needed to uncover proof of the move, and whether any of John and Polly’s children moved with them. It seems likely, however, that John settled there, near his former neighbors and friends.


^ Isaiah Taylor was the grandfather of Earl R. Taylor, who also settled in Bingham.

* John Craigin’s mother was Molly Lander, distantly related to Charles Pike Lander.

Sources:

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