The Pownalborough Courthouse Collection (#1924) at the Maine Historical
Society in Portland, Maine, is a seldom used but solid genealogical resource.
This particular collection is certainly not only unique, but one of the largest
of its kind in Maine. Dedicated volunteers of the Lincoln County Cultural &
Historical Association compiled a broad typescript summary of the contents,
which provides detailed identification of the papers and folders in the
collection. This project began in 1970, and was revised in 1990 and 2001. The
2001 update includes a summation that will enable interested genealogists
researching eighteenth and nineteenth century ancestors in that area to make a
rapid determination of the relevant folders in the collection. One can imagine
the enormous difficulty of trying to navigate through eighty-six boxes of
documents and sixteen boxes of charts, maps, and plans of larger items without
this convenient catalog!
A background of the origin of the collection is in order. Major Samuel
Goodwin (1716-1802) was one of the Plymouth Proprietors in the Kennebec
Purchase, being agent and clerk of that company. His descendants were ship
owners, shipmasters, farmers, businessmen, and local officials, whose records of
legal matters and life events went through the Pownalborough Courthouse. So the
collection concerns them as well as their family members, friends, relatives,
and business associates.
The numerous papers, books, ledgers, and memorabilia of all sorts were stored
in various trunks and boxes at the Pownalborough Courthouse until 1952, when the
Alfred Canby family took possession of the collection. The arrangement of
documents and papers, were initially filed by individual names, but over the
years this arrangement became disturbed. Poor storage conditions led to the
decision to move the collection. The Lincoln County Cultural and Historical
Association at Wiscasset agreed to care for and accept responsibility for the
collection from the Canby family in 1955. Professional advice was sought and
the entire collection was placed in a third floor area that was safe and free
of possible exposure to the elements. In 1998, by deed of gift from the Canby
family [acting for the Goodwin-Johnson heirs], a transfer of the collection to
the Maine Historical Society was completed.
Papers and documents in the collection should be of great interest to the
Goodwin, Johnson, and Prescott-Canby families of that era. The Samuel Goodwin
family was briefly treated in the Maine Families in 1790 series  and
mention of the collection and associated families is also found in the NEHGR
Register. But there is bound to be more information in this
collection that will interest genealogists researching Dresden in the very early
The Pilgrims came to the area to trade with the Indians for furs to send to
England to pay their debts. Settlers from France and Germany came in
mid-eighteenth century. The town of Pownalborough was incorporated in 1760, the
same year that Lincoln County was established, and it became the county seat.
The Court House built at Pownalborough was named after Thomas Pownal, the Royal
Governor in Boston. The original town included all of the present towns of
Wiscasset, Dresden, Alna, and Perkins or Swan Island. The town residents soon
realized the need to divide the large town into precincts or parishes, and the
east parish of Pownalborough (now Wiscasset) was created in 1773.
By 1794 the west parish towns of Dresden and New Milford (Alna) were set off.
The courts were then transferred to the east parish, which in 1802 was named
Wiscasset. Dresden became famous in the middle of the nineteenth century when
ice from the Kennebec River was shipped all over the world.
The papers, maps, and published books and posters of the era remained in the
Old Court House of Dresden for 200 years and have since been grouped into two
broad categories, “Goodwin” and “Dresden.”  The genealogies and names of
the Pownalborough families are worthy of further mention: 
Capt. Samuel Goodwin: Included are family papers (1753-1916),
accounts, daybooks, etc.  William Goodwin was the nephew of Major Samuel
Goodwin, who resided in Charlestown by the ferry, and later in Boston. He
collected fares for the ferry and tolls for the bridge, and owned lands on the
upper Kennebec. He and his father were styled “Chaise-Makers.”
1. William Goodwin took for his second wife Abigail Goodwin, daughter of
Samuel. She was the widow of Capt. Thomas Johnson, who died in 1776. After the
death of Goodwin, Abigail lived in Charlestown until 1839 when Thomas Johnson,
administrator of her husband’s estate, had her come to live at Pownalborough
where she died at age 93.
2. Caroline Louise Prescott (1829-1919), niece of Thomas Johnson, was
married in 1855 to William J. Canby of Philadelphia. The Prescott-Canby papers
are from 1801-1898.
3. Her sister, Sarah Augusta Prescott (1830-1914), was married to Capt.
Samuel Randolph Goodwin in 1852 and went to sea with him on many voyages.
4. Capt. John Johnson (1741-1813), son-in-law of Major Goodwin, was an
early postmaster at Pownalborough. Family papers of the Johnson family are from
5. Thomas Johnson (1778-1850) was another early postmaster.
6. Martha Ann Johnson (1824-1891), the sister of Sarah, was married in
1848 to James F. B. Marshall. They lived in Hawaii and Washington.
7. Henry C. Pratt was a resident of Charlestown, but originally was from
Orford, New Hampshire. He was a well-known portrait painter of the
mid-nineteenth century. In 1831 he married Sarah Howard Johnson (1797-1882),
who was daughter of John Johnson of Charlestown and niece of Thomas Johnson.
Several of his portraits of members of the “Court House Family” hang in the
8. James F. B. Marshall went to Hawaii in 1839 where he became a partner
in the C. Brewer Company. While on a business trip back to Boston he married
Martha Ann Johnson (1824-1891) who was daughter of John Johnson (see #6).
9. Jonathan Bowman was one of the initial justices in Lincoln County.
He took as his second wife Ann Goodwin, who was granddaughter of Major Samuel
Goodwin. Jonathan was born 1735 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and graduated
from Harvard in 1755. He was a classmate of John Adams and others of that class
who became prominent citizens. Judge Bowman was a heavy investor in lands and
shipping, amassing a large estate over the years. He was politically astute and
sided against the King in the years before 1776. Papers of the Bowman family
are from 1761-1856.
The files of Jonathan Bowman, judge of probate, were moved to the court from
Bowman’s home after his death. They contain legal matters concerning civil
disputes (1760-1795), such as line disagreements, lawsuits, and writs, as well
as probate records, and original deeds.
The thirteen folders that comprise the “Town of Dresden Affairs” papers
concern a multitude of subjects, most of which are commonly found in
nineteenth-century town records. 
Ship Frances & Mary
Sl. King George
Sl. Charming Molly
Sch. Tobago Backet
Sl. Two Sisters
Brig William Henry
Sch. Lydia & Mary
Ship St. James
Other valuable resources in the collection include:
One box of the collection holds 139 documents dealing with town and state
politics. Another contains printed materials such as advertising, flyers,
almanacs etc., from 1802-1885.  Also included in this box are selected
issues of periodicals such as Zodiac, Young People’s Mirror, Mechanics
Magazine, Ladies Magazine, American Repertory, etc.
Names of individuals or places that are found in the collections at the Maine
Historical Society (MHS) are typically placed onto 3x5 index cards for
cross-reference purposes and rapid identification. Researchers are encouraged
to phone or write to determine if a collection exists for any individuals or
towns in either the Pownalborough collection or others.
The Pownalborough Courthouse Collection is loaded with useful information
about our ancestors and is accessible to all visitors of the MHS. Librarians
will assist researchers by bringing boxes or folders to the reading area and
provide patrons with gloves, which must be worn for preservation reasons.
Researchers will become mesmerized as they plow into this wonderful
collection, which is bound to yield many nuggets of information not heretofore
known. To learn more, contact:
Maine Historical Society485 Congress StPortland, Maine 04101Tel:
 Ruth Gray, Alice MacDonald Long, and Joseph Crook Anderson II, C.G.,
F.A.S.G., Maine Families in 1790 series (Camden, Maine: Picton Press),
vol 2:145, 6:333, and 7:183-186.
 NEHGR 67:27-32.
 MHS Coll 1924, Summary Guide to the Pownalborough Courthouse Collection,
Lena E Browne, compiler, (Lincoln County Cultural & Historical Assn.,
Wiscasset, Maine, 1970, 1990, revised 2001).
 NEHGR 67:27-32; Ruth Gray, Alice MacDonald Long, and Joseph Crook
Anderson II, C.G., F.A.S.G., Maine Families in 1790 series (Camden,
Maine: Picton Press), vol 2:145, 6:333, and 7:183-186.
 MHS Coll #1924, Document Box III-14 “Town of Dresden Affairs,” 1761-1878.
 MHS Coll #1924, Document Box IV-6, “Artifacts.”
 MHS Coll #1924, Document Box III-14, “Town of Dresden Affairs,”
1761-1878, folder 12, “Vital Statistics.”
 MHS coll 1924, Box IV-7 “Miscellaneous Printed Materials, Invitations