Henry Parker Spinney born 6 January 1836

Henry P Spinney was born 6 January 1836, in Kittery, Maine.  His parents are listed as James and Nancy Spinney.  I have not been able to find Nancy’s maiden name.  There are a lot of Spinneys in the area.  One James married Nancy Libbey, and another married Nancy Putnam.  I only found one record that spelled out the middle initial P as Parker. Lacking that, I would have guessed that Nancy Putnam was the right mother, and the P was for Putnam.  That is still a possibility.  Kittery is a very old town, previously known as Piscataqua Plantations and formed in 1647.  Kittery was named for a town near Dartmouth, England.  

The 1850 census shows the Spinney family living in Elliot, Maine.  Henry’s father was a sailor, with real estate valued at $50.  His older brother Joseph was also a sailor, and James was a laborer.  Henry was only 14 and didn’t have an occupation listed.  Besides two brothers, the census also lists Sarah Spinney.  Family relationships are not listed in 1850, but she is likely a sister.  Elliot is a small town across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth NH, near Kittery, ME. 

On 12 January 1857, in Eliot (newer spelling for Elliot) Henry married Olive Ann Newbegin, daughter of Harvey Newbegin.   I do not know Olive’s mother’s name, but Olive was in the 1850 census in Newfield ME, and Harvey’s wife is Hannah.  Harvey was a carriage maker.  In a death record for Olive’s brother Luke, the mother is identified as Hannah Libby.  I haven’t found any public family trees posted for Henry P Spinney, but if his mother was Nancy Libbey, and Olive’s mother was Hannah Libby, they might have been related – cousins, even.  I just have not yet been able to make that connection. 

The 1860 census lists Henry and Olive living in Eliot.  Henry’s real estate was valued at $100, and his personal property at $25.  Olive worked as a domestic.  Henry was a caulker.  Caulking is a process to seal joints or seams in wooden boats or ships watertight by driving fibrous materials into the wedge-shaped seams between planks.  The fibers may be cotton or oakum (hemp fiber soaked in pine tar).  The tools used are a caulking mallet, and chisel-type tools called a caulking irons, plus scrapers to clean the seams prior to caulking. The calking is then covered over with putty or with melted pine pitch.  Most photos of caulking kits also show a stool.  Caulking was important to the shipping industry, and caulkers were skilled and important shipyard workers.  http://www.sydnassloot.com/caulking.htm is a website that has photographs and more information about ship caulking. 

In 1863, Henry registered for the Civil War Draft from Eliot.   The record listed him as 27, white, married, born in Maine, occupation caulker.  I found no indication that he was called up to serve. 

The 1870 census lists Henry P Spinney living in Elliott Depot.  His real estate was valued at $500, with personal property valued at $150.  His occupation was caulker.  They now had four children: Eugene Hertwell (born 1861), Adeline L (1863), Henry Clinton (1865) and Harris E (1868).  Henry’s wife Olive died 21 April 1872 in Eliot.

Henry did not remarry.  The 1880 census lists him as widower, living in Eliot.  He continued his work as a caulker.  All four of his children lived at home.  Addie had just married Charles Tetherly, she was with her father, and he was living with his parents.  (They had one daughter in 1882, but later divorced.)

The Portsmouth Herald newspaper covered the Eliot area, and Henry occasionally appeared in the South Eliot items.  On 8 October 1898, the paper reported that: Chas. H Cole and Henry P Spinney left Sept 27th for Wolfeboro’, N. H., where they will be employed for a while caulking a steamer.  12 October reported that they returned home from Wolfeboro, where they have been employed caulking a schooner.  Wolfboro is on Lake Winnipesauke and has been a resort town and vacation destination, with the tourist industry beginning to flourish in 1872, when the Mt. Washington was launched.  That side-wheeler was the best known on the lake, and was in use until it burned in 1939.  Being just one of many ships on that lake, I don’t know of Henry worked on that ship.

The Herald of 3 May 1899 reported Henry Spinney, who has been engaged in caulking a gondola at Durham, has finished his labors there, and returned home on Saturday. Not to be confused with gondolas of Venetian fame, the gundalows were shallow-drafted freight boats that moved popular in New England.  Sails could be lowered to pass under bridges.  Later, the hulls were turned into barges and pulled by tugboats. http://www.gundalow.org/ tells about a group trying to preserve the history of these small boats.  

On 24 May, 1899, the Herald reported Henry P Spinney has gone to Lake Massabesic to caulk a steamer.  This lake is in Manchester NH.  A year later, on 4 April 1900, it was reported that Henry P Spinney, the veteran caulker, is at work on Jeremiah Langley’s scowe, of Durham, which lie at the dock of Thomas E Call’s lumber yard in Portsmouth.   

Henry also served as “road agent”.  This is an elected or appointed official in charge of maintaining town roads, comparable to a director of public works.  The Herald reported on 9 May 1900 that Road Agent Henry P Spinney has a large gang of men at work on the highways, putting them in condition for the summer travel.  Henry continued to work as a caulker, as the paper reported on 13 June 1900 that Charles Cole and Henry P Spinney have been at Wolfboro for the past two weeks, caulking a big barge which is to be used to freight coal across the lake.  

The 1900 census lists Henry P Spinney, now 64, living in Eliot, ME.  An exact address was not listed.  His occupation was highway commissioner, and he reported that he was employed in that position for 8 of the last 12 months.  He owned his home (not a farm) and it was free of a mortgage. His son Harris lived nearby.   The Herald reported on 2 October that George Adams of Portsmouth was the guest of Charles H Cole and Henry P Spinney on Sunday.

From 22 January 1901, the Herald reported Henry P Spinney and Charles H Cole are caulking several tanks for Arthur Walker of Portsmouth. On 16 April, 1901: Charles H Cole and Henry P Spinney are engaged in caulking barges at Durham Point for Seth Langley.  On 19 August, 1902, Clinton Spinney of Lynn MA passed Sunday in town with his father, Henry Spinney.  Clinton is his son, Henry C.  On 29 May, 1906, the Herald reported Henry P Spinney, the veteran caulker of Eliot, is at Lake Winnepesaukee, where he is doing some work on a steamer. He was 70 years old at the time.

The 1910 census lists Henry in Eliot.  For occupation, the census taker recorded “own income”.  He lived next door to his son, Harris, who had a grocery store in Eliot.  The Herald reported on 6 January 1911 that Henry P Spinney, of Eliot, today celebrates his 75th birthday.  Five years later it reported on 36 February 1816 that Henry P Spinney, one of the oldest citizens, is reported to be quite ill at home, Main Street.  

Henry died 28 August 1917 in Portsmouth.  Cause of death was recorded as cerebral hemorrhage with duration of one week and contributing cause, insanity with attacks of violence, duration one year.  Alois Alzheimer, known for his work regarding presenile dementia, had just died two years earlier.  Perhaps in later years, Henry would have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, rather than the more generic “insanity” label. 

28 Aug 1917 Obituary: Henry P. Spinney of Eliot died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. George H. Fuller, No. 25 Gates street in this city, Tuesday evening, after a long illness.   Mr. Spinney was 81 years old and was born in Kittery, Jan. 6, 1836, the son of James and Nancy Spinney.  He worked as a caulker on the Portsmouth navy yard for a number of years.  Besides his daughter he is survived the three sons, Eugene H, of this city, Henry C. of Eliot and H. Clinton of Lynn, Mass, also several grandchildren.

Henry’s daughter Addie, mentioned above, had married George Fuller, son of Eliza Hawkins and Joseph Fuller.

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