The Elder House on River Road may well be the “Dubble” house built by William Elder in the 1750s. Haley Pal / For The Forecaster

Seeing as it is St. Patrick’s Day weekend and that March is National Irish Heritage Month, I thought it would be a fitting time to do a little research into Windham’s roots in the Emerald Isle. It turns out that four of our town’s founding fathers were of Irish heritage.

Interestingly, they all came from the same county in the old country. Antrim is a maritime county in the province of Ulster in Northern Ireland. It is bordered in the north by the North Atlantic Ocean, by the North Channel between it and Scotland, and in the south by the Bay of Belfast and the River Lagan, making it an easy place to board a ship and travel to the American colonies.

When our ancestors came to Windham, then called New Marblehead, in the 1730s, Ireland was in a time of economic despair. Trade had stagnated and due to a succession of poor harvests, famine and disease were running rampant throughout the country. It’s easy to understand how a “new world” might look promising to young men in search of adventure and to heads of families trying to protect their loved ones from ruin and starvation. And so these brave men made their way across the ocean in what must have been a harrowing trip to make their homes in the wilderness of New Marblehead. All of them bought land in the First District, which is identified these days with markers on River Road.

The most colorful of our Irish ancestors was our town’s second settler William Mayberry (he spelled it Meayberry) who was a native of Bellemoney, a parish near Coleraine in Antrim. He arrived in Marblehead, Massachusetts, around 1730 and emigrated north to New Marblehead around 1738. In 1740, he settled on Lot 11 and by 1750, he had moved to Lot 26 where he cleared 15 acres of land and built his family a Garrison-style house.

Mayberry was a blacksmith by trade and it is said that when he first arrived in New Marblehead, he set up his first forge under the spreading branches of a giant oak tree near his place of residence. He placed his anvil conveniently on a tree stump and welcomed local Native Americans as his first customers. Mayberry was described as a tall, slender man of great physical strength and endurance. He was physically imposing, but also known for his wry sense of humor. He and his wife Bathsheba had five children. Two were born in Ireland, one was born aboard the ship on the way to the colonies and two were born here in Windham.

Haley Pal, a Windham resident and active member of the Windham Historical Society, can be contacted at [email protected]

The next of our Irish ancestors to settle here in Windham was Samuel Elder. He and his brother Robert came from Artemore in Antrim County. When he arrived in the colonies in 1730, he first settled in the Presumpscot Falls area in Falmouth. In 1743, he moved his family to New Marblehead to make their home on Lot 40. He and his wife had a large brood of seven children, two born in Ireland, two in Falmouth and three in Windham. It seems he left the area when the Indian Wars broke out and did not return until peace was restored. He died here in 1759.


Another Irish settler to our area was Hugh Crague who was born in Antrim County in 1723. In 1730, he and his family left for America. Sadly, his father passed away on the ocean voyage and when the ship landed in Boston, his mother married Thomas Bolton whom she had met while on the journey. Shortly after the wedding, the new family moved to Portland. They later moved to New Marblehead.

Crague married Elizabeth Warren of Falmouth on Nov. 11, 1749, shortly after his family arrived in town. He purchased two lots and proceeded to build his house on Lot 51 and his barn on Lot 50. The official record of his settlement is 1751, but he probably did some work on his property before that time. The Cragues had eight children. He became quite wealthy over the years and was a highly respected and valued citizen of the new township. He died in 1777 and his grave can be found in Anderson Cemetery on River Road.

Our final founding father of Irish descent was William Elder. He was Samuel Elder’s son and settled in New Marblehead in 1743 after moving here from Falmouth. After his arrival, he met and married Mary Akers and purchased Lots 45 and 46 for their homestead. He built what is called a “Dubble” or “double” house on his property. It was probably a fairly large structure for the time as William and Mary Elder had 12 children to accommodate. All of the children were born in Windham. He died in 1799 at the age of 74 and he is buried in Smith Cemetery in the south part of town.

To all of you who are descended from these rugged, brave individuals, everyone with a drop of Irish blood running through your veins or anyone who just enjoys having a good time, a very happy St. Patrick’s Day to you. Erin go Bragh!

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