A WWII Letter


Dear Harvey, Fran and kids,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still O.K. and think of you folks often. Not much news over here, at least that I can write about. I meant to write more often and received your letter with Jane’s and Mary Ellen’s but we moved out at that time so I couldn’t get to it. This is about the first time I’ve had since then. They are keeping us pretty busy but we aren’t kicking because time passes more quickly that way.

At present I am sitting outside my dugout enjoying the sunshine – the reason – the inside is full of water and besides we don’t get much sun to enjoy. If anyone had told me I would be living like a ground hog, I wouldn’t have believed them but I am now, and liking it. 

I hope Harvey hasn’t been called up yet and that he won’t be, but the Army does funny things so no one knows. I should think it would be much better to take these single men who have these so called defense jobs and like to strike so much. But I am not paid to think so my opinion isn’t worth a damn. I wish they would give us fellows a chance to swap places with the strikers though. If a guy goes on strike over here, it’s his own neck. Well, I guess I’ve mumbled on enough for this time so until next time so long and write when you can.

Love to all,


Donald Holyoke of Brewer married Dorothea Crook of East Orrington on August 17, 1941. He was still a Lieutenant when this letter was written and a Captain when he died. The letter was sent to his wife’s brother and his sister-in-law who lived in Orrington – all Orrington mail had a Brewer address at that time.

This letter was submitted by the Crook family and transcribed by Donna Lathrop.

Circa 1940, Donald Holyoke with Dorothea Crook at the Crook farm, EO before they married in Orrington August 17, 1941 Killed in action 23 May 1944

Don't stone at Mt. Hope Cemetery

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The Life of Raymond L. Perkins, Jr.

The following article has been republished from a 2008 issue of Paper Talks Magazine, “Penobscot County Servicemen and Women Joined the Allied Forces During World War II.”

Raymond L. Perkins, Jr. was born on May 29, 1921, the son of Raymond, Sr. and Gladys Hillier Perkins of Orrington.
He enlisted in the National Guard on 03/12/40, serving with the 152nd Field Artillery, Battery E as a truck driver and machine gunner in the Pacific Theater. He was in combat for 2 months and contracted malaria – losing 40 pounds in 2 months. Ray was medically discharged on 11/02/43 and was honored with the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with 2 Battle Stars.
Raymond settled in Orrington where he returned to the family farm. He worked for the sheriff’s department for 12 years and was employed as an R.F.D. carrier for 24 years.

Louise Smith became his wife on December 12, 1943, and they raised three children – Gerald of Orrington, Peter of FL and Diane Mallory of NH.
Mr. Perkins continues to live in the home in which he was born, in Orrington.*

*Raymond Perkins passed away in 2011. 

An album of photos relating to the Perkins family can be found on our Facebook page.

zRaymond L. Perkins, Jr.11172014_0001

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Higgins Inventory of Household Goods

Transcribed by Ro Stewart.

Know all men by these presents that I, S. H. Higgins of Orrington Penobscot Co. Maine in consideration of one hundred dollars paid me by Evelyn Higgins of said Orrington, hereby sell and convey to said Evelyn Higgins the following household goods now in my house at said Orrington viz:

One black haircloth parlor set consisting of one sofa, 4 chairs, two easy chairs,  one cloth covered; one centre table, one organ, one pine chamber set, one lounge, one ash writing desk with drawers, one extension table six chairs, two featherbeds, two mattresses, two rag carpets and one manila carpet.  Also all the dishes and all other furniture in said house belonging to me. And I hereby put the said Evelyn Higgins in possession and ownership of said property by delivering her this indenture.

Dated at Orrington Maine this 26th day of August, 1886.

Signed: S. H. Higgins

Witness:  J. W. D.

26 Aug 1886 Inventory of household goods from Higgins to Higgins, cr

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Orringtons Illustrated Monthly News, 1910

Provided by Sharon (Bennett) Caron. Transcribed by Anne B. Allen, June 2015.

This letter is believed to have been written by Delia Cottle Smith, Sharon Caron’s grandmother. Delia was Beulah Hardison Smith’s mother-in-law. She was the mother of Vernon Vanbuskirk Smith and his sister Adria, the letter’s other author.

Orringtons Illustrated Monthly News

March 9th, 1910

My dear Boy.  I entended to write to you Sunday but was called out at 3 in the morning –   Ferd came after me and about 4 a dear little [baby] was born – a little girl and looks like Ethel – she is so pleased with it – there nurse was sick and couldnt come so I stayed until today Monday p.m. until they got someone & I got $2.00 for it.  Yesterday was a lovely day – as I went out at the back door there set three [boys] by the side of the house – Arthur K Harold E and Donald B – Adria said Don came in here to see you and was surprised to find you away – he wanted your address but papa couldn’t find it so he said he would write to Whitman – you better send him your address – this has been a terrible day, been raining [pitchforks] all day and the snow is nearly all gone and the ice is not safe now – big holes and I guess it will go out early this spring.

Nattie K is going out of the hen business.  I guess he can make more money at his trade  – he has sold all of his [hens] – it is no use for anyone to try to keep hens if they have a trade – I wish we had his nice hen house down here.  Edd Crowell is still killing [pigs] – he killed 4 last week.  I dident sleep much last night – the baby was fussy until 2:30 this morning so I slept from that untill 6 oclock and I am so sleepy I will have to go to [bed] now and finish this tomorrow.

Tu morning – I will try and finish the news today to send out tonight – you know the old chairs I was going to have you remodel for me – well I got papa at it – he sawed them in two and made me the cutest little [table] like this one – only I put little pieces of dishes on the top into the putty and you cant think how pretty it looks – he done a good job – I have got to guild the edges today and varnish it and it will be done and ready to put my [plant] on.  I do hope you wont get a cold this spring working out in all kinds of weather – there are lots of people around here that have been sick with colds but so far we have all escaped them.  Vida Grenon was real sick Saturday with tonsilitis – the minister and wife went down to Bucksport – he came home and she stayed down over Sunday and she and Vida came up on the 9 train yesterday in all that rain.  I hope she didn’t take more cold but Mrs. Grenon said they couldn’t stay there.

Well we hear the RFD [mail wagon] is coming back to the corner.  They say he can’t go anywhere down there – only to card clubs – he cant get to the theaters so easy down there as he can up here – they are going to move into Grace Reeds house – well now I must go to cooking and your sister has got the dishes washed and wants to write a while so I will give this up to her.

Isent this kind of letter writing fun, the next news will be that Mr. Scogden has bought a 2 years old [horse] – he had him harnessed up and he went good – he is dark red with a white strip in his face.  I had my birthday party and I had a pair of [gloves] for a present – they are tan kid – it is a lovely day today and Ethel Bowden is down here to spend the day, papa is out in the barn making a thill for his gigger – when mama went to Bangor to get my gloves she got papa a [fiddle] record, a medley – it is real pretty – I have had such a nice time to practice on the organ – I expect to be a lovely player by the time you get back – I have read that book The True Hero, do you play on your [harmonica] any.

Well Adria has stoped writing and is playing with Ethel – she has been sick just as you were when Adria was born – she is better now.

Delmont has found a chum – he is with Paul Blare the most of the time – he has never been here but once since you went away.  I don’t miss your presents as I did but I miss you in the pantry – the cake hangs on so long and the baked beans we have hard work to get them eaten and I don’t bake so many either – had Tomy brought Nichols [wagon] when you went away – he says he likes it and I heard today that he was going to move to So Orrington – that is the place for him as he goes down there every morning.

The ice is so poor – lots of holes in it today.

Every one that asks for you says I am so glad for him – not one has said they were sorry you had gone so you see how glad everyone is to have you gone – oh some did say they would miss you.

It is a lovely day so I guess we will go to the Grange tonight all right – have not been since you went away – have you been to see [                ] and [                    ] yet – you can take this illustrated news to him as it will only be published once a month, hopeing to hear from you soon – ever the same with love, Mother & Adria.


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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937


“In 1816, John Brooks constructed the first steamboat ever built in Cincinnati–the first to operate on the Ohio river.  He became a wealthy man and invested most of his money in Cincinnati real estate.  Later Nicholas Longworth, grandfather of the late Congressman Nicholas Longworth, who married Alice Roosevelt, laid claim to this real estate.  There followed a series of law suits which extended over a period of years.  Finally Longworth won and John Brooks became a ruined man.  He died in 1822.

“James Brooks, a son of John Brooks, a native of Orrington, migrated to New Albany in Indiana, established a grocery store, and later was the organizer and president of the first railroad from the Ohio river to the Great Lakes.  This transportation line was known as the New Albany and Salem railroad, and to accomplish its construction it was necessary to build a road 228 miles long through a country which had not yet entirely emerged from the conditions of pioneer life.  But this indomitable man succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of his more sanguine backers.

“When the Civil War broke out, James Brooks was appointed by Secretary of War Stanton, as quartermaster general of the western federal army and the gunboats on the Mississippi river.  He purchased the old Mississippi river flat floats and supervised their conversion into the Yankee gunboats which were a big factor in demolishing the Confederate forts on the Mississippi.  Under the direction of James Brooks supplies were accumulated at Louisville for the use of General Sherman in his historic march to the sea.  At one time during the war, James Brooks loaned the Federal government $240,000 from his private fortune.  He was later reimbursed.”

In tomorrow’s column Mr. Brooks will tell the story of the ancient pottery in the Bangor district.  This is a story which should appeal to many of the old timers who can remember when tinware was practically non-existent and the utensils such as milk pans, jugs and pitchers were made from Penobscot river clay.


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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


“George Brooks’ gift as a craftsman revealed itself almost immediately after settling in Orrington.  He built himself a blacksmith shop and did all kinds of blacksmithing for his neighbors.  I have some of his tools made from iron imported from England.  he also tanned leather for the other settlers, and set up a Dutch windmill.  In company with a neighbor, Simeon Fowler, he made a kiln or two of bricks every year.  He manufactured his own charcoal, and made all of his own nails.  He built the first grist mill in Orrington.

“He was a strong, capable character all around, according to the records that have come down to me, and there was much grief at his death in Orrington, December 15, 1807.  Before he died, he built a comfortable farmhouse for his family.  After his death his widow was married for the third time to Deacon Mark Hatch of Castine.  She was famed over the countryside for her grace and beauty.  She died March 2, 1817, at the age of 68 years.

“After my great grandfather’s death, my grandfather, James Brooks, took over the farm and carried it on.  On the place he built a substantial brick house in which I was born.

“John Brooks, a shipwright, who was my grandfather’s brother, and my great uncle, married Sallie Dean, and in 1814 heard the magic call of the west.  He built an immigrant wagon and transported himself and family from Orrington to Cincinnati, where he built the noted brig Cincinnati in 1815.  This ship was loaded with ears of Ohio corn and cleared for Boston via New Orleans.  John Brooks arranged that some of this corn be sent to his old neighbors in Orrington.”

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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


Mr. Brooks drew contentedly on a well-seasoned corncob pipe as we chatted beside a blazing hearth in the spacious living room of his comfortable Brewer home.  Pointing to the hearth bricks, he told me that he dug them out of the cellar hole of his great grandmother’s home at Castine.  British officers were quartered in this ancient house during the War of 1812, and one of them, an artist, was so intrigued by the beauty of Mr. Brooks’ great grandmother that he spent weeks painting her portrait.  This portrait is still in the possession of the Brooks family.

“I dug those bricks out of the old cellar hole in Castine,” he said, “because I thought that it would be pleasant over the years to toast my feet over my great grandmother’s hearth bricks.”

This genial and cultured potter, brickmaker and anthropologist is one of the most entertaining raconteurs I have heard in many a long day, and to listen to him was akin to perusing the pages of a fascinating book.  He spun me a tale of Brookses past and present that not only was livened by the tang of adventure and the sparkle of wit, but contained here and there a touch of pathos.

“My great grandfather, George Brooks”, he said, “was born in Bradford, England, and at the age of 17 left for Newfoundland to engage in the fishing trade.  The following summer he entered the whaling business with a certain Captain Doan of Cape Cod, and there on Cape Cod in 1775 he met Mrs. Mary Atwood Thompson, the charming widowed sister of Captain Doan.  They were married after an ardent and romantic courtship, and the following year migrated with a party of Cape Coders to Orrington.

“My great grandfather took up a wooded grant of 200 acres, built a log house, and cleared 50 acres.  His cabin was located near the dwelling of James Gorton, a squatter, and later he purchased this squatter’s rights.”


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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


        I was awed when he exhibited a cannon ball fired from the gun deck of the British sloop-of-war Sylph as the English ship was sailing by the town of Orrington in the War of 1812.  Mr. Brooks’ grandfather, James Brooks, was perched on a fence near his home when the ball passed so close to his head that he was literally blown off the fence to the ground, but escaped injury.

        Mr. Brooks’ justifiable pride in the achievements of his ancestors caused him to visit Bradford, England, where perusal of the ancient records in the vicar’s house revealed that his forebears had resided there since the sixteenth century, and many of them were artisans of distinction.

        It is a poetic coincidence that this Brewer potter and brickmaker married Edith White, granddaughter of Joseph White, proprietor of the noted Baptist Mills Pottery, Bristol, England, and a contemporary of Josiah Wedgwood, maker of the famous Wedgwood ware. Mr. Brooks is the proud possessor of several pieces of this ancient ware, including a snuff box, two cream pitchers and a sugar bowl. Mrs. Brooks died recently.

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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


George Brooks Built First Grist Mill in the Town


H.N. Brooks of Brewer Upholds Tradition of Craftsmanship

A strong, dominating strain of expert craftsmanship and artisanry which prevailed among forebears in Bradford, England, centuries ago, and persisted down through the generations until it found expression in America in the genius of shipbuilding, railroad construction and pottery making, are conspicuous in the background of the Brooks family of Orrington.

Seldom may one family boast of such varied and distinctive achievement as this family whose ancestors were among the first settlers of that beautiful Maine village on the west bank of the Penobscot river a few miles south of Bangor.

One of these Orrington Brookses built himself a covered wagon from Penobscot spruce, journeyed westward with his family, settled in Cincinnati and built the first brig and the first steamboat to run on the Ohio River.

Still another of these gifted Orrington Brookses constructed the first railroad to connect the Ohio river with the Great Lakes, during the Civil War served as quartermaster general of the western Union army under Secretary of War Stanton, and at Louisville, Ky., accumulated millions of dollars worth of supplies which enabled General Sherman to make his epochal march from Atlanta to the sea and break the backbone of the rebellion.

And not less distinctive than these Brookses who helped to make history for the United States is Harrison Nash Brooks of the Brooks brickyard, Brewer, who inherits in a large measure the artistry and craftsmanship which has run like a golden thread for centuries in the Brooks family fabric.
Mr. Brooks is a potter of exceptional genius as well as an expert manufacturer of brick, and his excavations in clay deposits in the Penobscot River region have furnished valuable contributions to the anthropological and historical lore of the Maine district.  His house in Brewer is a veritable museum of relics, which have to do not only with the early history of his family in Maine, but with the stirring events of the Revolution and War of 1812.

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Orrington History Resources

  • Bibles, family
  • Brewer-Orrington-Holden-Eddington, History and Families by Mildred Thayer and Families/Mrs. Edward W. Ames
  • Census and Cemetery Records of Orrington, Penobscot County, Maine 1790-1900 compiled by David L. Swett
  • Church records, Methodist and Congregational Churches
  • Comstock and Cline Atlas, Penobscot County, Maine 1875 and other maps
  • Family That Built the Barn by Russell Cox, content on the Wiswell family
  • Genealogy of the Descendants of Robert Goodale/Goodell of Salem, Mass. by George Williams, p. 1984
  • History of Orrington, Maine by H. Russell Cox and David L. Swett C. 1988
  • History of Penobscot County, Maine Illustrations and Biographical Sketches 1882
  • Interview Henry G. Wiswell, Orrington, Maine
  • Maine Historical Magazine 1890  Bangor Public Library and Maine State Library
  • Memories of Maine Magazine: http://www.memoriesofmainemagazine.com
  • Maine State Documents, type Orrington in search bar, digitized records http://statedocs.maine.gov/
  • Newspapers, Bangor Commercial or (Bangor Daily Commercial) 1872-1949 and Bangor Daily News
  • Orrington Historical Society website with Links to Local Resources and to Facebook (account not needed)
  • Penobscot County Probate Records in Bangor, Maine
  • Penobscot County Registrar of Deeds in Bangor, Maine
  • Orrington Penobscot County, Maine from the Wiswell Journals and Account Books 1787-1866, Vol. 7 David Swett
  • Records of Orrington, Maine compiled by David Livingstone Swett Bangor Public Library
  • Roots of a Family, Life in Rural Maine by Gail Anne Rowe c, 2012 Content on the Glidden and McGinley families
  • SAILING DAYS ON THE PENOBSCOT: The Story of the River and the Bay in the Old Days by George S. Wasson
  • Town Register Bucksport, Orland, Orrington, and Verona 1907 by Harry Edward Mitchell

  • Town Reports, 80 years available online
  • Town Reports of Orrington Maine – WordPress.com https://blhanscom.wordpress.com/

  • Vital Records of Orrington, Penobscot County, Maine prior to 1892 / compiled by David Livingstone Swett

Suggestions welcome!

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