She Pulled a Dixie

1860 Maine Census with Watson B. Sargent listed

I got the best email from my dad yesterday, telling a family story. It's interesting how these family stories get passed on through the generations. In our family when someone leaves a family gathering without saying goodbye, we say,

"He pulled a Watson."

We speak Watson's name as if he lived a short time ago, but Watson B. Sargent was born around 1840. He was the brother of my great-great grandfather. If you click on the 1860 census record above, you will see Watson listed along with some of his siblings. Here we are more than 150+ years later, speaking his name to describe present day family behavior. Apparently Uncle Watson had a habit of arriving to visit without sending word. Herbert E. Sargent remembered that his grandmother Mary would see Watson coming up the road, suitcase in hand and say, "Here comes Watson." Watson would come to stay for a visit, and then without saying goodbye to the family he was visiting would head off down the road, suitcase in hand. Grandmother Mary would say, "There goes Watson."

Watson lived his life a bit differently - enough that family members talked about it and the story has passed through 4 generations now. My husband and I were wondering if 150 years from now would anyone be talking about us. Will some behavior of mine till show up in future generations? And will family members say, "She's acting a bit like great-aunt Dixie..."

On to the story my dad sent....
Morning Dixie,

Yesterday I filed some things away in the "Archives", and came across James P. Butman's obituary of 1920. Therein it mentions his sailing days and voyages. He did not go to sea until 1868 at the age of 20, and went on a voyage of more than two years, which resulted in him attaining the rank of "first mate". He then went as mate on the bark Investigator for two years, this vessel being commanded by his uncle Capt. James Ford. In 1873 he took his own command as captain of The Homeward Bound, "and from then until 1880 he was in the North Atlantic trade". "After 1880 he voyaged mainly to the Far East,...".

Mary Foster Butman married Joshua in December of 1878. "Tradition" has told us that Mary "sailed around the world" with her brother, as stated in the Introduction to Mary (Butman) Sargent's Journal -1927-28. According to James' obituary he was only in the North Atlantic trade until 1880, so probably Mary only made it to European and Caribbean ports if she sailed with him.

William Butman, her father, gave up the sea in 1861, when Mary was only 16. I believe his schooner, William Butman, was only engaged in the Coastal trade down into Caribbean and to coastal U.S. ports.

On another matter, it is well known that sea captains often encountered very treacherous conditions as they sailed around the world, and often their natural stubbornness was all that allowed them to proceed through the storms. Herbert E. Sargent liked to tell of family stubbornness by a story passed down from his elders. It seems that Captain Butman came up to the Alton Farm to visit one weekend, driving his horse and carriage all the way from Searsport. After he said his goodbyes to leave, his carriage wheel got caught behind the gate post when he turned onto the old road. He did not stop long, or even try to back up, but he put the whip to the horse and the post was torn down. That story of his great uncle's stubbornness stayed with Herbert, and possibly allowed him to proceed at times where others wouldn't.

I am attaching a copy of James' obituary, and copying this to others who might be interested.


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"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden