Hidden in the woods south of Rowe Pond are the remaining stone structures that were part of a grist mill on Mill Stream. The site has captured the interest of many local historians. Among them are George Pratt, Glenn Wing, Robert Hunnewell, Allen Later, Lester Atwood, and Don Nodine, all of whom have visited the site over the years, and recognized its historical importance. Recently discovered documentary evidence establishes at least some of the history of this mill, and Allen Later has provided site photographs from his exploration this spring.
There were settlers in T1R2 WKR by 1810, particularly on the lots near the river. Interest in the back lots grew after 1818, as work progressed on construction of the Old Canada Road on an inland route. The 1830 U.S. Census listed this township, which is now Pleasant Ridge, as Andrews Plantation. Several groups of the Andrews family from Essex County Massachusetts had moved to the area during the 1820’s, and settled near each other along the “new” road.
Jonathan Andrews, Jr. arrived by 1824, when he bonded to purchase lot #46 from John Black, agent for the Estate of William Bingham. Several of Jonathan’s brothers also bonded for lots that year: Charles for Lot #57; Grover for the east part of Lot #38; and Luke for Lot #48. In 1825, their father, Jonathan Andrews, bonded to purchase Lot #47. He died the next year, and is buried in the old cemetery on Pleasant Ridge, with his wife Mary (Burnham), who died in 1828. Jonathan Sr. served as a sailor on board the 36-gun frigate Confederacy during the Revolutionary War. He was taken prisoner at one point, but escaped.
Jonathan, Jr., the eldest son, has left a trail of documentation making it clear that he built the grist mill south of Mill Pond (now called Clear Pond) by 1828. In a letter to John Black dated March 31, 1828, Jonathan wrote:
I have been looking for you this some time for of want to see something about the pay for my land. The time is about out and I should be very sorry to lose my possession for I have come some ways to get here and have spent some money and have not got the money…Sir I must pray for a longer term of time for you told me you would not hurt me if we could not pay at the time. Sir I have another request to make. Sir I have built a mill and have spent considerable time and some money to accommodate my nabours &c and to pay me for my trouble some have said that I have took to much toll. Sir I recollect that you told me that it would be more advantage to the settlers then for me and I find your words to be true. I am very sorry that I have spent my money in a grain mill. I could [have] paid for my land and been cleer from dept. I wish sir if you are agoing to assist me about the privilege you would please to do it if it is ever so little it will come Acceptable for I want to know what is mine and what is not… [author’s transcription, some punctuation added]
In the 1830’s, the Bingham Estate was eager to dispose of any remaining unsold acreage in the Million Acres. This coincided with a growing interest in timber speculation, with wealthy investors ready to purchase valuable tracts. In 1835, Black sold the entire township, exclusive of the public lots and those bonded or deeded to settlers. The buyers were timber speculators Benjamin Underwood and James Greenough, merchants from Portland, who sold it weeks later to John Reed of Windham.
In 1837, Black sold Daniel Steward, Jr. of Anson the Estate’s interest in the unpaid balances on fifteen lots bonded to settlers, including several of the Andrews lots. This ended the Bingham Estate’s involvement in Pleasant Ridge real estate, though ownership issues continued to arise.
Unpaid taxes caused both the Steward holdings, and the Underwood/ Greenough/Reed tracts, to change hands several times. Waiting in the wings each time to purchase the land from the Sheriff’s tax sales, were partners Columbus Steward, and Anson businessman Franklin W. Smith, who were Daniel Steward, Jr.’s son and son-in-law.
Jonathan Andrews, Jr. bonded to purchase the Mill Lot, which was the west part of Lot #39, from Black in 1834. The lot was part of the tract sold to Underwood and Greenough, which was later sold to C. Steward and F.W. Smith for unpaid taxes. It was sold back to Daniel Steward, Jr. in December 1840. The deed describes it as “the lot on which the grist mill built by Jonathan Andrews stands.”*
Jonathan still had not completed payment by 1841, when he sought Black’s help in the face of probable foreclosure by the current owners. He was desperately trying to hold onto his possessions, though he could not raise the money to pay off the balance.
In a letter dated February 8, 1841, Jonathan wrote to Col. Black:
Sir, I want some information. I know of no better source then to send to you for information. I suppose you know how the case stands between our township and the taxes. After you sould out we the settlers paid the taxes for two years. [When] Mr. Underwood bought he agreed to pay the taxes as long as he owned it. He sould out to others and the land has been sould a number of times for the taxes. Mr. Smith and Mr. Steward has paid the taxes and has got a few and the time I suppose is run out for redemption. They say they do not calculate to take any advantage of the settlers. Mr. D. Steward says he means to hold on to the mill lot because you would not pay a tax. I do not know what tax. I suppose you remember about the Lot No 53 that you and I talked about and I was to meet you to Anson and take a Bond. I went to Anson and you did not come and I have not heard anything about it since. I have occupied it since. I understood [from] you that this lot was reserved in the sale of the town, if it was I want some way fixt so they shall not git it for nothing. I have not paid my tax on the lot where I live. I want to hear from you first. Sir, if you please, write to me as soon as you can make it convenient and write to Concord. This from your friend and humble servent, Jonathan Andrews. [author’s transcription]
Jonathan managed to hang on for another year, and made another appeal to John Black for help. He wrote to Black on February 24, 1842:
Sir, I received your letter the 20th of this month and was very glad to hear from you. Dear Sir, it appears by your letter that we the settlers are at the mercy of Smith and Steward, and I expect that we shall have about as much as a lamb would from a wolf. It appears that these lots are gone without we can contrive some way to git them back. I know of only one way that is if you think best. The Mill lot Steward knows that I have a Bond for that; the other lot he knows nothing about. I think that if I had a deed dated back to the date of the Bond, I can git it by paying taxes. If you are a mind to send me the deed or deeds I will try to do the best I can with them. I suppose it will be some risk to send a deed to me, but I will give you my word and honour if you and I live, to meet at Bingham for you to take the land for your security if we can get it so if I can never pay for it you may be safe sir. If you think it best to send them you may send them to Bingham. Smith and Steward has settled with some and give them a receipt for the tax. I think they ought to give a deed. I wish for your opinion on this, from your most obed servent and friend, Jonathan Andrews. [author’s transcription]
Jonathan gave up and left Pleasant Ridge sometime after 1842, leaving behind nearly twenty years of his labor and improvements on the land. He moved to Newburgh, in Penobscot County, where he died in 1859. His brothers also moved away: Charles to Newburgh, Maine; Michael to Detroit, Maine; Luke to North Anson, and Grover to Massachusetts.
Jonathan Jr.’s wife was Hannah Andrews, daughter of Levi and Hannah (Lufkin) Andrews. Her brothers, Levi and Asa, remained in Pleasant Ridge and have many descendants in the area. There were also other members of the extended Andrews family who stayed in the Upper Kennebec.
The mill lot changed hands a few times after Jonathan lost it. It was part of Daniel Steward, Jr.’s estate when he died in 1858. It eventually passed to the heirs of Daniel’s son Columbus Steward, who were his son Benjamin Mantor Steward, and Augustine Simmons (married to Columbus’s daughter). The mill lot and surrounding property were finally sold to Levi, Sarah, and Nathan Weston in 1913. It is unclear whether any owner after Jonathan actively ran the grist mill.
- The John Black Papers, microfilm, Maine State Archives.
- Somerset County Registry of Deeds, Skowhegan, Maine.
- Copy of Eleazer Coburn’s Survey of T1R2 WKR, 1822. Somerset County Registry of Deeds. Made from a copy held by Levi Weston.
- Vital Records, Ancestry.com.
- Site photographs by Allen Later, 2018.
- Find A Grave, photos by Theresa Greene, www.findagrave.com
© 2018, Marilyn Sterling-Gondek