The Duntons of Hope

There is no disputing that the Duntons are one of the most important families in Hope's history. They are as prominent as any family in Anna Hardy's History of Hope, Maine. Our knowledge of the 1617 Treaty of Hatchet Mountain stems from their devotion to learning. Abner Jr. (1807-1911) was, for a long time, Hope's leading citizen. His 100th birthday, only three years after Hope's centennial, was the occasion for the biggest or second-biggest celebration in the town's history.

Hope's Duntons stem from Chloe Robbins Bartlett Dunton (1773-1856) and her husband Abner Dunton Sr. (1771-1858). They married in 1806. Abner Sr. was from Lincolnville. He was a shoemaker. Chloe was a widow. She and her first husband were among Hope's original families to take up lots from developer Charles Barrett. That first husband was Samuel Bartlett (d. Nov. 1805), one of three settler brothers from New Ispwich NH, friends of the developer. The Bartletts first settled Newton MA, then New Ipswich, then Hope (Barrettstown Plantation at the time). Samuel and Chloe had lived at the head of Hobbs Pond. They probably lived in the first frame house in Hope.

After their marriage in 1806, in 1810, the Duntons moved Chloe's house from its site at the head of Hobbs Pond (probably the cellar hole now on Kelly Williams's land) to its present location. It is the tiny end towards Hope Corner of Dr. James Laurita's house at 43 Hatchet Mountain Road. The Abner Dunton Srs soon outgrew their house and, in 1820, built next door at what is now the Doubledays', 29 Hatchet Mountain Road. As the family continued to grow, they moved around the corner to what is now Barbara Carver's at 488 Camden Road. Duntons continued to live there and make shoes there until the 20th Century when the heirs sold the farm to Jimmy Carver (1927-1999?) and his wife, Barbara Barrett Carver (1924- ), another descendant of the original settlers.

Anna Hardy mentions the large and growing size of Abner and Chloe's family. They had 7 children: Abner Jr. (1807-1911), Seldom (1809-90), Chloe (b. 1810), Alvin (b. 1812), Washington (b. 1813), Nancy (b. 1815) and John B. (1817-65). That's in addition to Chloe's seven Bartlett children from her first marriage. That's enough to warrant a bigger house.

We don't know where Major Isaac Dunton (1785-1852) -- a War of 1812 veteran - and his family fit in. He was probably Abner's brother who came to Hope from Edgecomb to marry Hannah Smith Dunton (1789-1876). Who were Fostina Adelia D. (b. 1837), Roseltha Marilla D. (b. 1839) & Albert D. (b. 1840), all mentioned in the Dunton family register? Children of Maj. Isaac and Hannah? Where did the Isaac Dunton's live and how close were they to the Abner Dunton Srs.? Did they share the same big house? The intimacy or lack thereof between these families bears on the transmission of the history of the 1617 Treaty of Hatchet Mountain.

Seldom and Alvin moved to Boston where they were famous writing masters. John B. outlived his first wife, remarried, and had at least five children of whom we have some information. The most important in Hope terms, however, was the eldest, Abner Jr. We will concentrate on him.

Abner Jr. learned shoemaking from his father. Like all Hope people at that time, his highest education was at the Hope Corner grammar school. Like all Duntons, it seems, he had more than a common interest in learning. Hope tradition has it that the self-educated Duntons taught themselves foreign languages and put on plays, perhaps even Shakespeare. In any case, Abner Jr. the shoemaker was also a school teacher, first in Bradford (Penobscot County), then in Lincolnville, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Bucksport, and Hope for a total of 14 terms. He combined shoemaking and teaching.

In 1832, when Abner Jr. married Susanna Harwood (1811-1876), he was described as being from Bradford. In 1837, they returned to Hope with their, then, two and a half children. Abner Jr. built the house at 488 Camden Road that was to be the Dunton's until 1953. It is the Duntons of this household that Hope's old-timers of today remember or heard about.

Abner Jr. & Susanna had five children: Calista Jane (1833-38), Charles Harwood (1835-54), Sarah Matilda (b. 1837), Abner F. (1850-1932) and Aubrey W. (1852-1924). The ill fortune of losing their two first-born and the 13-year hiatus between the birth of Sarah and the third Abner is noteworthy. We know that Sarah married a Marcellus Cobb of Washington MO in Hope in 1865. Did they move to Missouri? Probably. She died before her father. Aubrey moved to Melrose MA whence he returned to introduce the speakers at Hope's centennial in 1804. The bodies of Aubrey and his wife (Mary Theresa, d. 1928) were returned to Hope for burial. A son of Aubrey and Theresa - Charles A. Dunton (1877-1960) returned to Hope in 1931 to marry Mildred Evelyn Robinson (b. 1895), also of Melrose MA. They moved back to the family farm. It is Charles A. whom we knew as Allie Dunton when we were growing up.

It was Mildred who sold 488 Camden Road to James and Barbara (Barrett) Carver in 1953. Like the Abner Dunton Sr's, Jimmy was from Lincolnville and Barbara is a descendant of the founding Barrett family. But that is another story. Mildred worked at Acorn's in Camden and had moved to an apartment there to look after her husband Allie. But first, back to Abner A, Dunton (1859-1932).

This Allie F. Dunton was the third Abner. It was he who took over the family house and business. He married Aldora (1851-1927). He was one of Hope's leading citizens and a major organizer of the1804 centennial festivities, and, presumably, also of the celebration of his father's centennial in 1907. His photograph, like that of his father, is in Anna Hardy's book.

After A.F.Dunton died in 1932, [we think] that the recently married Charles A. (Allie) Dunton and his wife moved back to the family homestead. Allie is remembered as a farmer. The boot shop had been put out of business by machines. Sometime before 1953, Allie suffered and incapacitating stroke. During the final years of his life, he lived in the Mae Murray Nursing Home on Chestnut Street in Camden. Mildred worked at Acorn's.

So the Duntons were first settlers on the Bartlett side. They lived in Hope Corner from 1786 or 1787 until Mildred moved to her Camden apartment. After living in the oldest frame house in town (now the Laurita's) at two different locations and then what is now the Doubleday's, the family built and owned the same house where Barbara Carver now lives from 1837 to 1953.

This is the Dunton house that Hope people remember. Two memories stand out.

One is the post with the bell in front of Dunton's Boot Shop. Each time Abner finished a pair of boots, he rang the bell. That shop is the recently redone, brown and cream-colored building close to the road by Barbara Carver's house. The hand-trimmed shingles were made by Dunton women during the long winters. When Bill and Anna Hardy had a blueberry station at Hope Corner, at the site of the old True Cannery, in humble imitation of Uncle Abner's bell-ringing, Bill would sound a blast on the air horn of each truck filled with blueberries when it left the station.

The other is the dances that took place upstairs in the boot shop. For many years, before such events shifted to the Grange Hall above the Hope Corner General Store and then to the new Grange Hall (now Christian Andrus's Pine Ridge Carpentry), it was Hope Corner's place of entertainment. Anna Hardy's book is the source of choice.

Abner Jr. was a giant of a public figure. Again, Anna Hardy's book catalogues a great deal of his life. He was over quite a period of years variously Town Clerk, Selectman, State Legislator and County Commissioner (we were in Waldo then). He was a Freemason. He was interested in religion - too interested it seems to join a church. As he aged, he was everyone's uncle. On his 100th birthday, the town threw an immense celebration.

A.F.'s life was not as spectacular, but it is through him that we have a record of Hope's earliest recorded historic event. In 1953, when the Dunton descendants were preparing to sell the house, Katherine True Brown, who lived across the street, saw that old papers were being burned as part of the clean-out. She literally snatched from the flames the talk which Allie F. Dunton had given to Hope Grange No. 299, probably in 1929 at age 79. It is "In Redskin Days; a Chapter from the Early History of Barrett's Pond, now Hope," of which I have a copy typed by Katherine Brown. The document is reproduced in Anna Hardy's book (pp. 201, 203 & 204). In it, Allie recounts the burying of the hatchet on Hatchet Mountain during the peace ceremony between the Wawenocks and Tarratines in 1617, as well as events leading up to it. The account is replete with names and titles of chiefs.

Is it really possible that Allie F. Dunton had accurate information about an event supposed to have taken place 312 years earlier, centuries before the first Europeans reached Hope and before the Plymouth settlement? Given the extraordinary family that the Duntons were, yes. Allie was the closest child to Uncle Abner. Uncle Abner was a child at the time of the War of 1812. During that war, there was a military camp just behind the "Revolutionary War Lookout" at Powerhouse Hill in Rockport. Maine's Indians were a sorry remnant of what they had been by then, but a band of friendly Wawenocks was part of that military camp. So was Abner Jr's uncle Major Isaac Dunton.

The Rockport post did not play a big role in the war! Did the 6-year-old Abner Jr. visit his uncle there and meet the Wawenocks? Did Isaac or perhaps Abner Sr. return with oral history from the friendly Wawenocks? They probably did. Not much of a military nature happened at that lookout. There would have been plenty of evenings to kill sharing tales. Because of the Dunton family's interest in the things of the mind, it appears that they have accurately preserved a bit of history that is now nearly 400 years old. Remarkably, what they recount, and what the Wawenocks had passed down two hundred years by oral tradition, is scrupulously consistent with what we do know about the Indian nations of this area in the early Seventeenth Century from Europeans exploring the coast, notably Captain John Smith.

William I. Jones
Revised 29 May 2007