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May 20, 2015

In March of 1864, John Sheahan was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. At the end of July he was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Crater, during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia. When his father wrote him in Sept of 1864, he was interned at Camp Sorghum, the Confederate prison in Columbia, South Carolina.

Dennysville Me Sept 8, 1864

Dear Son John
     Your letter dated Aug. 9th was rec'd last Eve. We are very glad to hear from you and to know that you are well & hope your health may continue good. We are all well at home. Have heard recently from the boys. (Kenny & Ned) They are all right. We had a letter from Lizzie a few days since. She was well but anxious for you. She had heard from you. James Hayward * died about two weeks ago. I have bargained for the house but the deed is not yet made out. Our friends here are generally pretty well. Mrs John Allan, however, is very low, & will probably not live long. The weather at present is very fine but we had quite a frost last night. Most of the young people here have gone to Camp Meeting today. We hope we may see you again before long. Till then, we pray that God will watch over & keep you.
Your affectionate father John Sheahan

John Sheahan Sr. did "buy the house," but not quite as his son advised him. On January 10, 1865 he made a bond for deed to be paid in installments and the family moved right in. It was a very nice home but all was not roses - John may have had trouble fulfilling his obligations. Thankfully the Fosters were kind and his children stayed true to their words. In February of 1869, by the consent and request of John himself this bond for deed was made null and void with a new contract drawn between the Fosters and John's wife, Eleanor, and son, Edmund, for 950 dollars - cash paid.

John Jr. was mustered out on July 15, 1865. Just a month later, he and Mary Elizabeth Shriver, a member of a prominent Westminster, Maryland family, were married in Westminster. The triumphant son (in more ways than one), would return to Dennysville with his new bride to find his family ensconced in their respectable new home on the town road leading to the Narrows. His father would preserve his son's letters, as he requested, carefully tucked into their original envelopes, tied up in little bundles and likely secured in a bedroom drawer, in the home where he would live for the rest of his life.

His son enrolled in the Maine Medical College at Bowdoin, graduating in 1867, with degrees in medicine and dentistry. He began his practice in Westminster, but returned to his hometown in 1874, with Lizzie and their two small boys, William Henry and John Edmund, to be near his aging parents. There he remained, a distinguished member of the community, plying his profession and an avocation - photography, for the remainder of his life. At the time of his passing his oldest son, William, named for the brother he lost in the war, wrote a letter recounting the circumstances surrounding his death. A portion is reprinted here;

February 17th, 1894, father started for Barbadoes; his health had failed him so that he did not think he could live the winter out; he left New York the 23d; the long journey upset him, and knowing he could not live but a few days he started back, as soon as possible, returning on the same steamer which took him there. When he arrived in New York, he was very weak indeed, and at Boston had to be lifted from the train; after alighting from the platform he took but one or two steps and fell forward, dead; his heart had failed him. This was in the New York and New England depot, Boston, Sunday evening, March 18th. I was telegraphed and started for Boston immediately, made all necessary arrangements, and then continued my journey to our home in Dennysville, Maine, where our mother, who died a year and a half ago, was buried. I had her remains taken up and started back with them to Boston; my brother John accompanied me to see father's body. I then took both bodies with me to Westminster, Md., for burial, arriving there Sunday, March 25th; the service took place immediately upon my arrival. Westminster was mother's old home, and it was while my father was passing through that town on the march to Gettysburg, a few days before the battle, that he first met my mother. It was the wish of both to be buried in the old home.

In 1940, William donated his father's extraordinary Civil War letters to the Maine Historical Society.

Post Script:
Our preservation minded clients were looking for an intact antique home to restore. What sealed the deal on the Narrows cape were the surviving original six over six and nine over six windows. While removing them for restoration, we noticed something we would later find remarkable. Scratched in the wavy and bubbled glass of an original window pane was a signature - M L Sheahan.

We had yet to learn the home's history but we knew this pane was special. This made the painstaking process of removing the glass from its bed of tough glazing even more than the usual nail biter. When finally the fragile glass was ever so carefully freed - it was whisked out of the shop (boxed in a bed of bubble wrap) and placed atop an heirloom armoire in my office. Once its former home was readied, we returned our little gem to the very spot it has occupied for some 165 years; a precious record and reminder of a family that lived in the home.

Now this might have been the end to our story, but one question still remained. Who was this mystery signator? We puzzled this question through the entire process - not a name seemed to fit. As it turns out, we would have to write the entire history of the house to finally figure it out. Our M L Sheahan, was John's beloved Lizzie - Mary Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Sheahan.

* James R. Hayward a Sergeant in Co F, 6th Maine Volunteers, served at Gettyburg with William Sheahan. He was discharged in Aug, 1864 and died at home.


Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

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