by Linda Snow McLoon
A study of Belgrade’s settlement and early years brings to light a number of surnames that thrived through the decades. People with names such as Page, Mills, Bickford, Richardson, Farnham, and Stevens appear frequently in genealogy searches of Belgrade families. But no surname in Belgrade’s history outnumbered that of Yeaton, beginning with Revolutionary War veteran Paul Yeaton (1762-1856), who walked to Belgrade from Great Falls, NH in 1794 to claim his war bounty land in Belgrade. His brothers Philip and Joshua Yeaton soon followed, and the hard-working, prolific Yeatons, often known for their longevity, prospered and multiplied. A transcription of Waterville Sentinel town news articles from 1905-1914, the Belgrade News, contains multiple references to over sixty different Belgrade residents with the surname Yeaton.
Paul Yeaton, Jr. (1803-1893) was a son of the first Yeaton settler, and in 1826 he built the Yeaton house at 298 West Road, a quarter mile from where his father had settled. Paul Yeaton, Jr. was a carpenter and cabinet maker of extraordinary skill, and we can still marvel at the mortise-and-tenon pegged beams and masonry arches that support the house’s chimneys and fireplaces. His craftsmanship is also preserved over the front door in a handmade Federal fan. The house was operated as a Bed & Breakfast for a few years in the 1980s.
Paul Yeaton, Jr. and his younger brother, Andrew Yeaton, married sisters. Andrew married Eliza Jane Goodridge in 1836, and Paul married her older sister, Lydia Ann Goodridge, eight years later in 1844. Early on, the two couples shared the roomy house, but after a growing number of children arrived on the scene, the brothers decided to clear the land across the road and build another house there for Andrew and Eliza. The result was the house currently owned by Esther Perne & Earl Morse at 421 West Road.
In this picture of Andrew Yeaton’s house, Paul Yeaton, Jr. and his wife Lydia are on the front steps. Sitting on chairs on the lawn are Paul’s younger brother, Andrew Yeaton, and his wife Eliza with their two youngest (out of seven) children, Millard and Mary.
Five of Andrew and Eliza Jane Yeaton’s children are included in this picture. Front row: Cora, wife
of Charles Henry Yeaton; Elvira Yeaton Page; Mary Yeaton Tibbetts; Freeman Yeaton. Back row: Millard
Yeaton; Charles Henry Yeaton (back row); Millard’s wife, Lillie Yeaton.
News regarding Andrew and Eliza’s eldest child, Charles Henry Yeaton, appeared in the December 12, 1912 Waterville Sentinel Belgrade news when he was 74 years old:
Charles Henry Yeaton went to the Augusta City Hospital Monday, where on Tuesday he was operated on, having one of his eyes removed, hoping to prevent total blindness. His friends wish him success. His daughter, Mrs. Laura Clement of Belgrade Lakes, accompanied him.
While Andrew and Eliza Yeaton had at least seven surviving children, Edwin F. Yeaton was the only child of Paul and Lydia Yeaton to live to adulthood. Edwin got his education at the nearby district school and then at Titcomb Academy on Belgrade Hill. He turned 18 while the Civil War was raging, but because of a hernia, he was not eligible to serve in the military.
Instead, Edwin got a job as a fruit tree salesman for a Rochester, NY company, the Chase Brothers’ Nurseries. Exporting apples was becoming an important business in Central Maine, and he became their top salesman. He also planted a large orchard on the family farm, and using the Maine Central Railroad which came through Belgrade, he shipped apples to Portland and Boston. Eventually, the orchard became his primary source of income.
Edwin Yeaton must have been highly respected by the people of Belgrade, because he served as a Selectman of the town for nine years in the 1890s, three of them as Chairman. Later he was Moderator of the annual Belgrade Town Meetings from 1900 to 1924, and during these years, he also served on such town committees as the Cemetery Commission and the Board of Health. In addition, he completed tax returns for others, helped the town draw juries, and dealt with the State Assessor for Belgrade.
Edwin Yeaton’s activities were not limited to local affairs in the town of Belgrade. In 1913 he represented his district as a member of the Maine House of Representatives in Augusta, and at one point, he was a Deputy Sheriff for Kennebec County. During WWI, he was appointed director of the Maine Liberty Loan Drive.
Edwin Yeaton also delivered the mail in Belgrade,
as we see from a February 12, 1907 blurb in the Belgrade News:
Our mail carrier, Edwin Yeaton, who has been having a vacation of several days on account of grip, was reported to be on the gain this morning.
Edwin was apparently a frugal person who saved and invested his resources. Upon his death in 1926, his estate was probated and found to be worth $34,752, the equivalent of over $465,000 today.
When the railroad came to Belgrade in 1849, telegraph lines did too, and at some point an attractive young woman from New Gloucester, Frances Haskell, arrived to be the telegraph operator. After she and Edwin were married in 1865, they took up residence in the old house together with Edwin’s parents, Paul and Eliza Yeaton. They continued to share the house
until Paul died of a stroke in 1893. Eliza Yeaton, known for her delicious diamond shaped molasses doughnuts, died ten years later.
Carolyn Yeaton, the only child of Edwin and Frances Yeaton, was born in the house in 1870. Carrie, as she was called, possessed such an unusual musical talent from a young age that she was recognized as a child prodigy. In 1880, when Carrie was ten, Edwin hired a music teacher and purchased a grand piano for her to practice on.
However, tragedy struck the Yeaton family three years later, when Edwin’s wife, Frances, contacted tuberculosis. She died in 1883.
Edwin F. Yeaton had a wonderful tenor singing voice, and he ran a popular singing school at the Depot for fifteen years. He also led the church choir, and he sang with and directed a mixed quartet.
The following appeared in the January 15, 1878 Kennebec Journal:
Mr. Edwin F. Yeaton is teaching a successful term of singing school at Belgrade Depot, with some fifty students in attendance.
Four years after his wife Frances passed away, Edwin Yeaton was introduced to Lillian Powers from Manchester, who also had a lovely singing voice. Following their marriage in 1887, Edwin and Lillian were frequently sought after to sing duets together.
The May 30, 1907 Grange meeting report from the Kennebec Journal:
Mrs. E.F. Yeaton sang, and as usual was obliged to respond to an encore, which she did in her easy manner. Mrs. Clark accompanied her on the piano. After the entertainment, supper was served to a large crowd.
It was quite a musical family! Carrie Yeaton went on to study at Westbrook Seminary, and in 1889, she was sent to Europe for three years to further her musical studies on the piano. Upon returning, she lived in NYC, where she was a concert pianist and music teacher. She married Waldermar Karmpffert, the science editor of the New York Times, in 1911. Before her marriage, Carrie had always returned to Belgrade to spend her summers with her family on the West Road. She and her husband had no children, and she died in 1933 at age 66.
Paul Murray Yeaton, the first child of Edwin and Lillian, was born in 1889, and Donna Lillian Yeaton followed two years later. A third child, Russell Powers Yeaton, was born in 1897.
A more contemporary (1984) view of the two Yeaton farms on the West Road, shows the Paul Yeaton, Jr. house (lower) and the Andrew Yeaton house (upper).
The three children of Edwin and Lillian Yeaton were all born In the house that Edwin’s father, Paul Yeaton, Jr. built in 1826 on the West Road in Belgrade. Their first son, Paul Murray Yeaton, was born in 1889, and Donna Lillian Yeaton came along two years later. In 1897, the Yeatons welcomed their third and last child, Russell Powers Yeaton.
Along with Edwin’s daughter Carolyn (Carrie) from his marriage to his first wife, Frances Haskell Yeaton (d. 1883), the immediate family numbered six, plus Edwin’s parents, Paul and Lydia Ann Yeaton, who shared the house with them. After Paul Yeaton suffered a fatal stroke in 1893, Edwin cared for his elderly mother, Lydia Ann, until her death in 1907.
Until well into the 20th century, young scholars in Belgrade attended a number of one-room district grammar schools scattered throughout the town. Beginning in 1829, older students continued their education at Titcomb Academy on Belgrade Hill, but after it burned in 1885, they had to travel to surrounding communities to attend high school.
Andrew and Lucy Watson, who lived in North Belgrade, made arrangements for their daughter,
Lu Bertha, to attend what was then Oakland High School, before it became Williams High. She graduated in the class of 1897.
When a plan for a public high school was being bandied about, it appears that some Belgrade families with children approaching high school age kept them at home in anticipation of Belgrade High School opened its doors. Hence the first class to enter the high school in 1904 included a number of siblings:
Adding to this list of Belgrade siblings who began their high school careers in 1904 were Paul and Donna Yeaton. Paul had turned 15 in March of that year, and his younger sister, Donna, was 13.
For the first two years of its existence, the high school shared one of the district grammar schools at Belgrade Depot. Initially classes were held in one room with one teacher, Mr. Charles Hicks, a Bates graduate. Later an additional room was built, and an assistant, Miss Elizabeth Whittier, also a Bates graduate, was hired. Those two teachers were required to maintain a complete high school curriculum, including four years of Latin and 2 of French while preparing students to pass entrance exams for college.
It didn’t take long for Belgrade High School to field a baseball team that was competitive against other schools and against Belgrade’s town baseball team. Paul Yeaton is on the far left of the back row in this 1907 photograph.
Waterville Morning Sentinel
March 1, 1907 – Belgrade
The prospects of a high school baseball team are very promising. Enoch Adams has been elected manager; Paul M. Yeaton, assistant manager; and Clarence Chase, captain. Fifteen men have signed who wish to try for a position on the team. There is some very good material for a small school, and it is hoped that there will be a number of games arranged.
Donna Yeaton’s memoir includes her comments on her high school graduation in 1908:
At the risk of being boastful, I’ll add that I was Valedictorian of that first commencement, while Marion Tebbetts was Salutatorian and Paul was class president. He also wrote the class Poem, setting it to the music of an old song to be used as our class song.
The class of 1908 followed its commencement exercises with a senior prom, complete with a dance card so they could record their dance partners.
With their high school days behind them, Paul and Donna Yeaton turned their thoughts to college. Perhaps due to the urging of their high school teachers, both applied to Bates College, and Paul was promptly accepted. But even with her splendid high school record, Donna was forced to enroll at Colby College in Waterville for her freshman year, since Bates already had filled its quota of 50 female students. Donna was quick to apply for admission to Bates the following year, and she was able to transfer to join her brother there in 1909.
During their years as Bates College students, the Waterville Sentinel’s Belgrade news columns frequently included mention of the Yeatons’ visits home to Belgrade:
December 7, 1911 – Belgrade
Paul and Donna Yeaton, Bates ’12, spent Thanksgiving at home with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. E.F. Yeaton, returning to college Monday.
Paul Murray Yeaton (1889-1963)
Paul Yeaton, like his parents and sister Carrie before him, had a talent for music. His skill as a cornet player and nice singing voice helped him become a member of both the Bates College Orchestra and Bates College Glee Club. Paul’s love of music remained throughout his life, and in the late ‘30s, he organized a cornet quartet which played in and around Belgrade. He taught his three sons to play various instruments so they could perform together at town functions
After graduating from Bates College in 1912, Paul taught school for a few years in Maine before accepting a manufacturing position for the New Departure Ball Bearing Company in CT. In the ‘20s, he was employed by a pipe organ factory in New Jersey, and it was here that he met his future bride, Anne Margaret Fisher. They were married in 1925.
Paul and Anne’s first two sons, Oliver & David, were born in New Jersey in 1928 & 1930, but when the Great Depression struck and Paul lost his job, the family moved back to Belgrade. Their third son, Paul Stacy Yeaton, was born here in 1936. Until the grip of the depression eased in the 1940s, and Paul became employed by the Lombard Power Traction Engine Company in Waterville, he joined forces with Leslie Bickford and Guy Yeaton in Belgrade to build barns and do other general construction work.
Sadly, the same health tragedy that befell Edwin Yeaton’s first wife came back to haunt the family. Anne Yeaton contracted tuberculosis in 1937, and she spent most of the next 12 years in a TB sanitarium in Fairfield.
Without Anne’s presence at home, it was indeed a challenge for Paul to care for his three sons while at the same time earning a living. In the early 1940s, a family friend, Joan Stuart Gerald, came to the rescue. While her husband, Ed Gerald, was away in the employ of Uncle Sam during WWII, Joan and her young son, Stuart, stayed with the Yeatons as a housekeeper.
The 1950s found Anne Yeaton well enough to return to her family in Belgrade. To celebrate Paul and Anne’s 25th wedding anniversary, a surprise party attended by over 200 people was held at the Belgrade Grange Hall on October 18, 1950. A lovely musical program with an 8 piece orchestra was included, and the couple was presented with a lamp and studio couch. Seven years later, Anne Yeaton lost her struggle with recurring tuberculosis, and she passed away in 1957.
Paul Yeaton never lost his enjoyment of making music in the community. Almost everyone living in Belgrade in 1959 and 1960 remembers the minstrel shows written by Frank Farnham and performed at the Grange Hall by the good people of Belgrade. Most residents were either on the stage or in the audience. The author remembers tap dancing around the stage with Gail Dixon in that minstrel show. This picture which appeared in the Kennebec Journal finds Paul Yeaton and his trombone in the back of the picture.
In 1961, Paul married a former Bates College classmate, Beatrice L. Jones, and they lived at the old family house on the West Road until Paul died in 1963 at age 74.
Donna Lillian Yeaton (1891-1982)
The Bates College “Mirror” for the Class of 1912 tells us that Donna Yeaton’s majors were German & Latin, and that for extracurricular activities, she was a member of the Girls’ Glee Club, Vice-President of the Women’s Student Council, and that her intended occupation was teaching. After graduating from Bates, Donna did just that. Over a career that spanned 35 years, she taught Latin and Greek in Port Jervis, NY and Glen Ridge, NJ high schools, along the way getting her MA from Columbia University in 1927. Donna never married, and she dedicated her life to educating young students. She also did her share of traveling, including a sabbatical to tour ancient sites in Italy & Greece.
Donna Yeaton entered the job market at a time when automobiles were being mass-produced and within reach of the middle class. She was proud of her 1921 Knight Coupe, but her favorite car was a 1928 Buick she named “Chloe.” After her father passed away in 1926, Donna was able to take a sabbatical from teaching Latin & Greek literature, and with her mother riding shotgun, they started out in Cleo on an exciting trip. Stopping along the way to visit friends, they first drove to Florida where they connected with a cruise ship, and with Cleo on board, they went through the Panama Canal.
After steaming through the canal, the ship headed for California, where they made a connection with some friends in a suburb of San Diego. Subsequently they spent three months visiting friends in southern California, including one of Donna’s high school classmates, Marion Tebbetts.
Donna and Lillian returned to Belgrade in mid-spring, driving mainly on wash-board like, unpaved, and narrow roads across the entire United States, while stopping to visit other friends along the way. They began their journey on April 30, 1931 and arrived in Belgrade June 5. Over the entire trip, gas cost $.15/gallon, and the expense for one night in an overnight cabin for any number of people was $1.75.
During the three decades that Donna Yeaton taught classical studies at high schools in NY and NJ, she almost always returned to her home in Belgrade during school vacations and the summer months. After her father passed away in 1926, Donna’s mother, Lillian Yeaton, came to live with her in NJ, but summertime saw both of them back in Maine. In 1938, Donna bought the Andrew Yeaton house across West Road from where her brother Paul and his family lived, and at that time Donna had electricity and plumbing added to both Yeaton houses. During the summer months, she entertained many guests from NY, NJ, & DC at her home in Belgrade.
Donna came back to Belgrade for good following her retirement in 1946. After her mother Lillian passed away two years later, Donna began spending the winter months with her brother Paul’s family across the road. There were a few occasions when she would leave Belgrade to be a live-in companion/housekeeper for academic acquaintances. A June 2, 1955 clipping from the Around the Depot section of the newspaper read:
Miss Donna Yeaton has returned home after a winter in Washington, DC.
When Donna Yeaton returned to Belgrade after her retirement in 1946, she slipped seamlessly back to the life she had loved growing up, getting involved in community activities such as the Belgrade Grange and the Old South Church, where she became President following her retirement, served as accompanist for 30 years, and was active in the Ladies’ Aid Society.
In this picture of what appears to be a house cleaning project at the Belgrade Grange Hall, we see Donna in the front row, dustpan in hand.
Throughout her life, Donna Yeaton valued her deep roots in Belgrade and her Yeaton family heritage.
Russell Powers Yeaton (1897-1983)
Some might think that the youngest of Edwin and Lillian Yeaton’s children, Russell, would have found it difficult to measure up to his high achieving older siblings, but that was not the case. After earning a degree at the University of Maine in Forestry, the 1920 census records for Belgrade finds him at age 22 living at home with his parents while holding down a job as a forester.
At some point, Russell served a stint in the armed forces, after which he hooked up with Paul and Donna in New Jersey and New York, where he got a job working for Bell Labs in Research & Development.
During the many years Russell Yeaton worked for Bell Labs, he put together a choir of about 60-70 employees to perform for company employees, plus do tours outside the company. This photo shows Russell Yeaton directing his Bell Labs Choir in Grand Central Station in NYC at Christmastime, 1958.
In 1927, Russell married Marion W. Schlesier, and the next year they built a house in Verona, NJ. The 1930 census finds the family living there, with Russell at age 32 listed as a draftsman for the telephone company. Their two sons, Thom and Bill, were born in 1928 & 1932.
Russell’s grandson, Bill Yeaton, reports that his grandfather was an excellent cabinet maker—which ran in the family! After taking careful measurements of a spinning wheel at the Smithsonian, Russell proceeded to build an exact working copy. He also made a wheelbarrow for for his grandson which was a smaller version of one he had built for himself.
Russell Yeaton always had a vegetable garden behind his garage in NJ. After his brother Paul died, he and Marion journeyed to the Yeaton farms in Belgrade every spring to plant a garden for his sister, Donna, and Paul’s widow, Bea. They would return to Belgrade with the entire family for a couple weeks every summer, staying at one of the old Yeaton houses. While visiting, he always kept in touch with old school friends in town.
Russell Yeaton passed away in 1983, seven years before his wife Marion died in 1990.
A happy summertime moment when family members gathered in Belgrade.
As we’ve looked back at four generations of Yeatons who have been the focus of this article, we’ve seen a family which for their slim numbers had significant impact on the town of Belgrade. Although members of the last generation left Maine for employment elsewhere, they always returned to their deep roots in Belgrade. All could rest assured that over their lifetimes they had made a real contribution to their families and the community.