Murders at Montville
Montville (Mountain Town), Maine, was first settled in 1780 and then incorporated on February 18, 1807, from an area once known as Davistown Plantation. It is a diamond-shaped rural township of approximately 43 square miles, in what is now Waldo County.
Located approximately 15 miles west of Penobscot Bay, it lies in the shadow of the Frye Mountain State Game Management Area, which occupies the northeast corner, bordering the town of Knox.
But what happened at Frye Mountain was particular. The federal government, through the 1937 Bankhead Jones Farm Tenant Act, was able to purchase so-called, sub-marginal land directly from farmers, for purposes that included land conservation.
The 1930s were hard everywhere, but especially on Frye Mountain, according to records. This section was the last part of Montville to have roads constructed and it suffered during the severe winter of 1934, when many apple trees perished.
Families started to leave the area to find work off the farms and some were glad to have hard cash from the government for their acres. At that time, the average value per acre of farmland in Montville and Freedom was just $6, compared to a statewide average of $20.60.
Farm buildings were burned after the sale, so little remains of their homesteads, except for the old stone foundations. One cemetery was even partially relocated, to accommodate the government’s plan.
Lumbering by the state began in the 1950’s and continued until 1958, when the land was designated as the Frye Mountain Game Area.
The town of Freedom bounds Montville on the northwest, Morrill abuts on the east, Searsmont on the southeast, the town of Liberty on the southwest and Palermo to the west.
Within the boundaries of Montville, lies Trues Pond, the source of the St. George River. After hundreds of twisting miles and numerous ponds and lakes, empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Thomaston, Maine.
The sinuous North Mountain Valley Highway bisects Montville from south to north, entering the town near McFarland’s Corner and winding its way past Whites, Beans and Polands Corners.
By farmland lined with granite stone walls, interrupted by dense forest, the meandering road skirts the base of Hogback Mountain, before exiting the town at Goosepecker Ridge, near Sandy Pond.
Montville was in the second grand division of the grant known as the “Twenty Associates’ Proprietary”, most of which was subsequently owned by Joseph Pierce of Boston. It is from him, that the early settlers of the area obtained their original titles.
The first settlement in this town was 1778-9 in the southwest part of Montville bordering Liberty, by a Mr. Stannard, who moved away a few years later. In 1780, the first permanent settler was James Davis, a Presbyterian Minister from Massachusetts. His son Elias Davis, was the first child born in the settlement. Elias Davis would die in Montville.
Other Davis family members followed and eventually became so numerous at the plantation, that the name of Davistown was adopted.
At one time, the town of Montville had several villages: Montville Village or McFarland’s Corner, Center Montville, North, West and South Montville. It was also a magnet for religious activity, with four Free Will Baptist Churches and one Methodist Church, though the population peaked in 1840 at only slightly more than 2,100 individuals.
The Vose family would play a pivotal role in the development of 18th and 19th century Montville, having a school implemented in that part of town and duly designated "The Vose District".
If you were not descended from a Vose, you or a family member may have married a Vose or received religious instruction from the Deacon Ebenezer Vose. Maybe you were buried in the Vose Cemetery?
By the early 1800’s, Johnathan Rowell and his wife Cloddy Shaw, had settled in Montville, after their marriage in Woolwich, Maine. They would have six children, who would produce many grandchildren.
The son of Johnathan and Cloddy Rowell, Daniel Merrill Rowell, would marry Hannah Vose, the half-sister of Deacon Ebenezer Vose. Daniel and Hannah Rowell would have ten children born in Montville. Three of their children would succumb to an invisible enemy within. Hannah Vose Rowell may also have been a victim of that same foe.
The mother of Hannah (Vose) Rowell, Sarah Bridges, was first married to Henry Kingman Dunbar I and they had four sons. The oldest son of Henry and Sarah, Samuel Dunbar would be the first claimed by the family demon, as would his oldest son, Henry Kingman Dunbar.
Sarah Bridges and Deacon Ebenezer Vose, both widowed, with young children, would be married, after their spouses, Henry Kingman Dunbar I and Hannah (Rowell) Vose, had died in the early 1800’s.
Sarah Bridges and Deacon Ebenezer Vose were the ancestors of nine of the ten chapters to be discussed: 1-Samuel Dunbar, 2-Henry Kingman Dunbar, 3-George Wilson Rowell, 5-Helen Mariah Rowell, 6-Marcus Aurelius Vose, 7-Edward L. Rowell, 8-Lunette Vose, 9-Alwilda Vose Calderwood and 10-Newton John Vose. All, with ties to Montville.
If not for a never-ending curiosity, concerning solving ages old conundrums, the Murders at Montville may have been destined to fade into eternal obscurity. Weaving together the fabric of the lives, of long- dead individuals, may not have even been possible a few decades ago.
So, let us take a step back in time and go for a walk in Montville….