Friday, August 7, 2020

A matter of historical record: The last Pope

Ellen Pope, the last descendant of an amazing Quaker family that inspired and enriched Windham for 182 years 


 In our recently concluded series on the neighborhood known as Popeville, we learned that a Quaker family, escaping persecution, settled in Windham around 1768.

For over 100 years and through at least five generations, the Pope family created industry, participated in town government and were known for entrepreneurship and integrity (The Windham Eagle, June 26 – July 10 – July 24). 

The original home of Robert and Juliette Pope
(circa 1840s) on Pope Road. It was the
childhood home of their daughter, Ellen
The late Windham historian, Kay Soldier, described the Pope neighborhood, located in the area of the Pleasant River bridge on the road named for the illustrious family, as “…once the busiest place in Windham,” with mills and commercial enterprises contributing to the town’s mid-19th century economy. 

As explained in part three of the series, the mills and various businesses washed away in the crash and roar of a major flood caused by the unleashed waters of a Pope dam break. Ultimately, hard times fell on the enterprise known as Isaiah Pope & Company and the firm was defunct by the 1870s. 

All of the numerous members of the family moved on. Fast forward to 1950. The once Popeville home of Robert Pope, partner in Isaiah Pope & Co., is occupied by Allen Jones, soon to be police chief of the city of Portland. He is selling the circa 1840s house. 

The buyers are Harry and Dorothy Adams, but there is a problem clearing the title. Jones had inherited the house from his parents. 

The Adams’ located the last surviving member of the Pope family: Ellen Pope, daughter of Robert and Juliette Pope, who was born in the house on January 27, 1854. Ellen, then 96 years old and residing in an old age home in Portland, signed away the old claim. She died soon after. 

Her obituary, in an August, 1950 edition of the Portland Press Herald read as follows: 

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at 749 Congress Street for Miss Ellen Pope, 96, a practical nurse here for many years, who died Tuesday at the Home For Aged Women, 64 Emery Street. Interment will be in Friends Cemetery, Windham Center. She was born at Windham, Jan. 27, 1854, daughter of Robert and Juliette Pope, and lived in Portland most of her life. She was a member of the Friends Church at Windham. She had no survivors. 

 Next time, the underground railroad was alive and well in Windham. <

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