Friday, October 15, 2021

Life of farmer’s wife embodies Raymond’s pioneering spirit

Carrie McLellan of Raymond is buried in
Raymond next to her husband, David at
Raymond Hill Cemetery.  FILE PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight

Born in Westbrook on Jan. 29, 1865, and christened Carrie Crockett, her cavalryman father was drowned, along with his horse crossing a river during a Civil War battle. She came to Raymond at the age of 3 when her mother married Hiram Cash, whose grandfather was John Cash, the famous rattlesnake charmer of Raymond Hill.

Carrie was a true embodiment of the pioneer woman, an inheritance from an ancestor, Davy Crockett of Alamo fame. Also, her husband, David McLellan, born Jan. 4, 1859, in Raymond, was undoubtedly an inspiration as he for many years had the reputation of being the hardest working and most powerful man in Raymond and Carrie worked along with him in running the farm in its developing years.

Yet while David was a very large man, Carrie weighed barely 100 pounds.

The McLellan homestead was on Otisfield Road, now Route 85, not far from the Casco line east of Rattlesnake Mountain and the nearby home of renowned 19th century Raymond resident Edgar Welch.

Originally the one-story farmhouse of his father, William, David rebuilt or replaced it with a 2 ½-story with gingerbread trim and that was considered a bit of foolishness by his neighbors. There was of course a large barn and connecting ell, the barn being where Edgar Welch met his dramatic and tragic end. The barn is still in use though the house burned down in 1954.

Carrie McLellan was well educated for the day, tutored at home by her schoolteacher stepfather who was noted for his skill in mathematics. She also took piano and organ lessons and played the organ in the Raymond Hill Church for many years. 

She worked in the corn shop at Webb’s Mills as a girl and attended Gorham Normal School from which she graduated with honors in 1885. Before and after she taught for many years in the schools of Raymond, Casco, and other nearby towns.

The McLellan farm was a prosperous family venture in which Carrie carried her full share of responsibility. The couple had one child, a son, Paul, who apparently was not inclined to the life of a farmer or woodsman as he went to Portland and became a well-known contractor.

Though her husband had been noted for his strength and abilities, he became incapacitated with rheumatism and had to leave the labor to Carrie and hired help.

Taking in summer boarders was then becoming popular, which Carrie adopted, for which she did the cooking and housekeeping in the big 13-room house along with milking the cows, tending the pigs and chickens, carrying the wood, planting, and harvesting the garden crops and all the things necessary to living in the country. Edgar Welch did the heavy work as long as he lived along with his employer, but it was Carrie that kept things moving.

But all was not work and drudgery for them in those days. There were frequent picnics on Sundays and on neighborhood or family occasions, at favorite pleasant spots in the woods or on the hilltops. At these gatherings Carrie would play her melodeon for singing, with Edgar adding his strong voice. Also, there was Jim Strout, a grandfather of Ina Witham. Called “Uncle Jim” by his many friends, who accompanied Carrie on his clarinet.

Following the death of his son, Cyrus, “Uncle Jim” never played his clarinet again except once a year when he went to a high point on Raymond Hill and played a memorial to his son, attended by sympathetic neighbors.

Carrie was also practical and inventive as well as active and ambitious. Women’s clothing of the day was not well adapted to physical labor, which she adequately solved by designing and making a form of long pants or pantaloons that enabled her to do those things not otherwise convenient, such as milking cows and navigating a wheelbarrow. Modern women have been liberated for some things, but Carrie was well ahead of her time in others.

She once tried to live in Portland with her son in her late years, but the confusion of the city was no substitute for the peace and quiet of Raymond with those she knew best. She soon returned to the town where she had spent all but the first childhood years.

Carrie lived a long and useful life, highly respected by her many friends until her death on June 28, 1952, at the age of 87. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.  

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