1839: Joseph Abial Wood to John Davis Richards

This interesting letter was written by Joseph Abial Wood (1803-1844) who was appointed the postmaster at Ellsworth, Maine, in 1826. Joseph was a graduate of Bowdoin College (1821) and settled in Ellsworth where he practiced law. He was a Jacksonion Democrat and a local political activist who was tagged as orator for the 4th of July 1833 celebration in Ellsworth where papers reported that “his eloquence has charmed us, and the sentiments he has this day delivered, must meet a hearty response from the bosom of every true patriot.” [Eastern Argus, 12 July 1833]

Joseph wrote the letter to John Davis Richards (1801-Aft1880), a resident of Ellsworth, who represented Hancock County in the Maine Legislature from 1837 to 1842. It contains a description of Ellsworth’s response to the Governor’s call for militia to mobilize and proceed to the Aroostook River to rescue the Federal Land Agent Rufus McIntire who had been taken prisoner by the British. This incident was in connection with the festering boundary dispute between Maine and New Brunswick where valuable timber lands were at stake.

In the U.S. Congress on March 2, 1839, Maine Representative Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith outlined the events and the various communications sent and received since 1825, noting the primary responsibility of the national government to protect and defend its own territory and citizens, but declared that Maine would defend its territory alone if the national government chose to not fulfill its obligations. Wrangling in Congress did not result in Federal financial support until nearly summer 1839, however. Maine initially committed three thousand to ten thousand militia to the conflict in addition to the land agent’s posse.

Wood’s letter mentions several Hancock County citizens by name who responded to the militia draft and rendevouzed at Franklin, Maine, where they were treated to dinner, toasted, and sent on their way to the Aroostook River region.

1839 Letter

1839 Letter

Addressed to John D. Richards, Esq., Member of the Legislature, Augusta, Maine

Ellsworth [Maine]
March 1, 1839

Dear Sir,

Yours was received yesterday. I was in hopes it would have had the information from Washington which everyone is anxious to know. I hope to have it today.

Our detachment left yesterday morning. But you never saw such a deficiency of arms as there appeared to be here. The selectmen sent to Bangor to get some but understanding on Wednesday that none were to be had there, we had a meeting in the evening & chose a committee to cooperate with the selectmen in trying to procure some. I went with Mr. Hale after eight o’clock in the evening to Reeds Brook & we were able to get three sets of equipments. [Joseph Wescot] Tinker went down to Beechland & the mouth of the ____ & got two. Others went to Branch Pond & got five &c. &c. When we came to muster the 37 yesterday morning, we found we had equipments for 30.

The Draft was ordered to rendezvous at Franklin & we all volunteered to carry them there. So about 9 o’clock all hands of us paraded our sleighs up Main Street & the troops marched up along side & we took them in & carried them over [11 miles to Franklin]. We had sent over the night before to Merritt to have a good dinner provided & we there gave them a dinner & between 3 & 4 they marched off with full bellies & in good spirits & well pleased, I believe, with the attention paid them. We had about forty sleighs.

Peters, Dutton, Hale, Hopkins, Robinson, Dyer, Tinker — Ben & Richard, Whiting, Jr., [Samuel] Dutton, J Clinghorn, [Samuel] Dutton Jr. & in fact everybody you can think of. They all take hold here as one man. And I believe they are all sensible here now that something must be done to raise the character of the Militia — that we must choose some good officers & see that our companies are well organized & equipped.

You say that [Rufus] McIntire is going up & that Charles Jarvis is to be retained. In what capacity is Jarvis retained? I was in hopes McIntire would resign & that Jarvis would be appointed Land Agent. We have just heard that Jarvis has made a capture of men, oxen, &c.

Yours &c. &c. — J. A. Wood

One response to “1839: Joseph Abial Wood to John Davis Richards

  • Terri Weed Cormier

    As president of the Ellsworth Historical Society this is wonderful!! Would love to learn more about the letter!

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