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Surry by the Bay

Spectacular Landscape, Spirited People

Phebe Fowler: A Woman of Property

Text by Steve Collier and Sandy Collier

Images contributed by Susan Paquette through the Surry Historical Society

Phebe Ann Lord was born November 17, 1841 and grew up on Morgan Bay Road in Surry, Maine. She was the only daughter of Benjamin and Jemima Lord and the youngest of five children. Along with many other members of the Lord family, Benjamin had migrated north from Kittery, Maine, after the revolution and purchased land in what was to become the Town of Surry in 1803. According to the census reports from the early 19th century, Phebe’s brothers were fishermen and farmers. Her brother Abraham became the proprietor of a successful shipyard in Ellsworth.

Phebe had a hard life. She married three times. She married her first husband, Sanford Smith from Trenton, Maine, across Union River Bay, on March 5, 1859, when Phebe was 17. Sanford and their infant daughter Leila both died in 1860. Phebe was just 18. Sanford is buried in the Cross Road cemetery, next to Phebe’s parents. There is no record of Leila’s passing, other than the Surry book of births, deaths and marriages held in the Town Hall vault.

Phebe's Hymnal
Phebe's Hymnal
Zoom in on right page.
Item Contributed by
Surry Historical Society

Phebe’s second husband was Captain Isaac Treworgy. She must have had a special passion for Isaac, the way she wrote his name so many times into her Methodist hymnals. Phebe attended the “Methodist E Church” that stood on the Cross Road across from the cemetery until it burned down in the early 1900s. One can imagine Phebe and her friends giggling as they passed notes in the hymnal back and forth during a lengthy sermon or choir practice. “The two prettiest girls in Surry—Phebe and Ellen.” Then right beneath it in a different hand: “They are not so.” Phebe’s losses had not yet aged her.

Phebe's Hymnal
Phebe's Hymnal
Zoom in to read the faintly penciled banter.
Item Contributed by
Surry Historical Society

Phebe and Isaac married in Surry on February 6, 1864. But they were not to be together long. Isaac died in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on December 9, 1865, at the age of 28--perhaps that he was a sea captain explains his death away from home. Phebe was only 24. Isaac is buried the Cross Road Cemetery in Surry in a row of Treworgy children who all died before their time.

The young Olin Fowler
The young Olin Fowler

Item Contributed by
Surry Historical Society

Phebe’s third husband was Olin Fowler – a young man from Lubec whose father was an itinerant Methodist preacher. Olin enlisted to serve in the Civil War at age 15. Several years Phebe’s junior, Olin became a distinguished Civil War soldier and ended the war six years later as a lieutenant in the South leading African-American troops. Olin is honored to this day by having his name listed on the African-American Civil War Monument in Washington, D.C. at the corner of Vermont and U Streets in northwest Washington, D.C.

Phebe and Olin met in Surry upon his return from five years on the battlefields and they married on April 17, 1870. Phebe was now 28. They had three children at the old Morgan Bay Road farm property: Lemuel (eventually a stonecutter in Brooksville who had 11 children) in 1871, Mina in 1874, and Charles in 1877. Her father Benjamin Lord lived with them, too, and her brother Stephen built a home next door.

Browney May 28, 1918
Browney May 28, 1918

Item Contributed by
Surry Historical Society

Phebe and Olin lived out their lives in peace at last, farming animals and crops and raising their children. Back in the day, the Fowlers had as many as 30 cattle and 9 yearlings. (Surry tax records, 1878). In the old barn there were nameplates marking the inhabitants of the old stalls: Bessy, MaryAnne, Bossy. Dating from the 1890s to 1918. It was a hard farming life, no doubt. One can picture the young family toting water and feed to the barn animals. Phebe played the piano and left behind her music books, including the hymnals, in a wooden box later found in her attic.

Mary Ann June 17, 1911
Mary Ann June 17, 1911

Item Contributed by
Surry Historical Society

These two people had seen and known such hardship and suffering, yet they carried on. On May 7, 1879, Benjamin Lord deeded the family homestead to Phebe. She had become a woman of property in an era when it was unusual for a married woman to own land in her own name.

Olin died in 1922. Sadly, Phebe ended her long and eventful life under guardianship of her daughter, Mina, and died in Seal Harbor (where she lived with Mina for just one month) on December 5, 1925, at the age of 84. Her Surry homestead passed to her three children under the laws of intestacy.

Phebe in Her Old Age
Phebe in Her Old Age
Phebe wears a black coat in the only photograph we have of her.
Item Contributed by
Surry Historical Society

Resources

Surry Town Records, Surry Town Office

Cross Roads Cemetery, Surry

Lakeview Cemetery, Brooksville, Maine

Hymnals of Phoebe Fowler (found in house attic in 1984)

Woodbine Cemetery, Ellsworth

1890 Maine Census Index of Civil War Veterans

African-American Civil War Monument, Washington, D.C.

The Ancestors of Phoebe Lord, by Carl Austin Flegal (1998)

A History of the Descendants of Nathan Lord of Ancient Kittery, Maine, by C.C. Lord (1912)

Maine At Work in 1861, by Jackson

Surry, Maine, 1850-1880: A History of Four Neighborhoods Including A Guide to the Research and Composition of Local History, By Anne Robinson Dolan (Thesis Project, University of Southern Maine) (1997)

Photographs, with thanks to the late Belva Fowler, and to Mrs. Susan Paquette of Woodstock, CT