Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Talented Tuesday - Professions of the Armstrong's of Cape Elizabeth, Maine

My 3rd Great Grandparents, John Armstrong and Betsey Woodbury Dyer Armstrong, together had at least 8 children:  Simon, Mary, Eben, Lucy, John B., Israel, Arthur and George.

I am interested in the professions of my ancestors and relatives.  It is fascinating to see how occupations change over time and this is what I was able to uncovered about the Armstrong sons professions.

Much of this information is extracted from the City of Portland, City Directory from 1871.

Simon Armstrong (1812-1839) - Simon was a mariner.  The only evidence of this is that he died while traveling by ship in Havana, Cuba.  If he made his living on the sea, it wasn't for long, since he died far too young at the early age of 27.

Eben Armstrong - (1818-1884) - Eben was a cooper.  The profession of cooper is not one you hear about often anymore, but it was an important profession in its day.   A cooper is the traditional occupation of making barrels out of wooden staves.  These barrels would be used to contain dry and liquid goods for storage and sale.  It should not be underestimated the skill required to make these barrels.  Coopers are still used to make barrels for specialty products such as aging wine, but wooden barrel containers have been replaced by pre-made plastic, wood and metal containers.

John B Armstrong - (1822-1900) - John B had a few professions including as a farmer, but in 1871 he was a Ferryman.  Portland, Maine and Cape Elizabeth (Now South Portland) are separated by Portland Harbor.  The most efficient way to go from Portland and Cape Elizabeth was to take the ferry.  John B. Armstrong ran the ferry business bringing people and goods between the two locations.  Eventually, their was a bridge built between the two locations which effectively ended the ferry business.

Israel Armstrong (1824-1892) - Israel is described as a mariner.  I didn't see any evidence of what type of business he conducted on the sea in 1871.  However, I did see that he was involved running the Portland-to-Cape Elizabeth Ferry in 1866.  Making a living from the sea was very popular in coastal Maine.

Arthur B Armstrong (1827-1893) - Arthur was a sparmaker.  A sparmaker is someone who works on building masts for ships.  This was during the time when most shipping was done by sailing ships and making and repairing "spars" or masts would have been a very desirable profession.  As more shipping moved to steam ships, this would have become less in demand.

George Armstrong (1832-1884) - I don't find any records of George in any profession.

Many of these professions would be considered obsolete today.  It is interesting to consider that some of the professions that we take for granted will be obsolete in 100 years.

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