52 Ancestors: Sarah (Patten) Fulton, #3

The 52 Ancestors prompt for this week is Longevity. My first thought was to feature my 2nd great-uncle who was confirmed to have lived 105 years. I never met him despite his living past my high school graduation. The story was that he lived the last 20 years of his life in poor health.

An ancestor who lived almost as long was Sarah Patten, born to John Patten and Mary Means in Topsham, Maine in 1745. Her exact date of death is unknown, but she appeared in the 1840 census and the story is that she died in 1845, making her about 100 years old at her death. The Pattens were descended from Actor Patten, who immigrated to Maine sometime between 1727 and 1737 from Coleraine, Londonderry, in what is now Northern Ireland. At the time they arrived, they were called “Irish” though the term “Ulster Scots” might be used now.

Sarah married Robert Fulton, whose family also came from Coleraine, in 1764. They had daughter Mary in 1769. About August 1775, Robert and other men from Topsham went to the mouth of the Androscoggin River to cut hay and were captured by English soldiers and taken as prisoners of war. Robert and another man, William Patten, died while imprisoned and the rest were returned to Maine at a later date.

Sarah was only about 30 years old when husband Robert died, yet she never remarried. In the 1840 census, she is called Sarah Fulton, Widow and is head of her household in Bowdoinham, Maine. Living with her is a male age 10-15, one male between 15 & 20, one male 20-30, a female age 5-10, one female 15-20 and one female 50-60. The U. S. 1840 census only shows the age, race, and gender of household members, so I can only guess at this point who they were.

I have a couple of questions and the answers might give some insight into her motivations: Did she inherit money and property from her father and/or her husband? Did she receive a pension as a war widow? Will those answers tell me why she did not remarry for the last 70 years of her life?

Sarah Patten Fulton was buried in the small Patten Cemetery with her parents near where her father John’s farm was located in Bowdoinham. There is no photo on Find a Grave and the engraving is reported as “wife of Capt. Robert Fulton (no dates).” It’s now on my list of cemeteries to visit next time I am in the area.


“Maine, Births and Christenings, 1739-1900 index,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F4WK-3TG : accessed 25 Aug 2014) Publication: TOPSHAM,SAGADAHOC,MAINE; FHL microfilm 928294.

“Maine Marriages, 1771-1907,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F4X3-Z8V : 4 December 2014), Robert Fulton and Sarah Patten, 23 Nov 1764; citing Civil, Lewiston, Androscoggin, Maine, reference ; FHL microfilm 223,931.

Silas Adams, History of the Town of Bowdoinham, 1762-1912 (Fairfield publishing company), 127. Has the story of Robert Fulton’s capture and interesting notes on the effects of the American Revolution on Bowdoinham.

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